One month ago…
As I arrived in tonight’s tour destination, I had a return of that bleak feeling that can occur after six hours of trains followed by grey skies and new streets and people in a town you’ve never been to before. It can feel like the first scene of The Incredible Hulk as directed by Shane Meadows. The rucksack on the back, with added stoop from over excitement at an Oxfam bookshop in the previous town, the puddles lit by LIDL, the prickly suspicion that the people on the town bench maybe preparing to holler at a stranger, an inkling you haven’t sold too well, all add to the foreboding. I realise why I like the extra tour with Grace and Josie, then we can all share the foreboding together or not feel it all as we are too busy showing off, being foolish or being suddenly serious on the nature of love, fear and the world as it maybe or could be.
It is best to try to do all the first time visits to places on a tour during the Summer, sunshine helps extinguish “I’m not from around here” palpitations. The best way to deal with this all is to place yourself in the movie version of your life. Once you’ve added the soundtrack and the back story, you are so busy making up your narrative you forget that it is cold and wet and you are antsy. Perhaps it’s a revenge drama, but be careful, that can increase your swagger and draw too much attention to you from those boys on the bench. The family drama provides less pressure, you’ve returned with some ashes and the need to visit a sister you never knew, but this can slow down the journey to your B&B due to time spent contemplating a stream and attempting to play some adagio for strings in your head. You can always shirk the full length cinema narrative and go for “moody early 80s synth band promo during bands awkward transition from art school to mainstream”, but do you have the eyeliner?
And now tonight…
I started writing that post a month or so ago, I think it was my arrival in Newtown. Kings Lynn should have been similar, but it wasn’t. Maybe I’ve become more resilient. I knew the sales were low, and I was used to it. Low sales are manageable as long as you have had a few sell outs. Most of this tour has been busy enough, and the low sellers can have a cheery, “well you few have made it, so let’s put on a bloody show eh?”, the Rooney gene runs through us all. It’s not worth playing the forlorn, what’s the bloody point, fallen harlequin, because the people you are playing to are the ones who did turn up. Go to the town square post show and scream at the passers-by from the top of the memorial at the people who didn’t turn up. It’s the quiet nights when I am loudest. I want the audience to leave thinking all those that didn’t buy a ticket were fools, not leaving with a greater understanding of why the attendance was low. I had a friend in the audience tonight who told me one man turned to his partner, gestured at the empty seats, and said, “they don’t know what they’re missing”. The small audiences in the small towns can be the most passionate. You might not be many of the populations cup of tea, or at least they haven’t imagined you would be, but those there are glad you came, you are the alternative to a majority mainstream, “please don’t give up on Kings Lynn” or Ludlow or whatever town it may be.
Writing this at 2am on the final train home, eyes turning to sand, debating whether I should treat myself to one more chocolate biscuit (yes yes, I tour like an animal, but one of those animals that likes biscuits – a roving dachshund), I don’t feel animosity and my ego is neither bleeding nor railing.
It doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes you turn up to the small town and the small audience and every one of you in that room realises it might have been better if the whole thing hadn’t happened. Fortunately nothing in recent memory springs to mind, but there is a Willy Loman low after a dud gig in a strange town. You end up in rickety hotel, the restaurants long closed, the ornate rider of “a cheese sandwich” unfulfilled by the venue, eying the the three pack of Lincoln biscuits or Custard Creams and wondering if it’s better to leave your stomach empty or risk opening it up and leave it wanting more; an oesophagus screaming for Wotsits and Kitkats. Then, the couple next door start loud sex followed by a loud argument, the aggressive pattern of sex/argument/sex/argument continues as if Radio 4 has been overthrown by Caligula and a horse, and you stare at a BBC documentary on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the mute button on.
But even then, that which does not kill you may well become material for next year’s Edinburgh show. Each mild horror of existence is just another way of shooing away writer’s block.
Last few dates of this tour – Dartmouth, Evesham, Leicester and Tunbridge Wells. 2014 tour (new show) starts off at Bristol Tobacco Factory, Sheffield Showroom, Norwich Playhouse and Nottingham Broadway Cinema. All details HERE
Hey, my DVD is the perfect Christmas present for someone or other HERE