Frankie Vah, ranting poet, must be in his mid-fifties now. It’s a long time since the 1987 election, when Frankie toured the country as a support act for indie band The Midnight Special. Vah would be completely forgotten if he were not the subject of Luke Wright’s new play, Frankie Vah.
By looking at the problems within the Labour party of the 1980s, Luke has found an interesting way to approach contemporary issues. There’s an incredible amount of research into the time – Kinnock: The Movie, an election broadcast, is an essential point, as is the deputy leadership contest between Dennis Healey and Tony Benn. Somehow, this level of political geekery is passed off gently, introducing the background without obvious exposition. And it’s done well. The show I saw was followed by a Q&A with various politicians who’d attended gigs at the time, possible even ones Vah had performed at, and they accepted the reality of Luke’s play without question.
Obviously, I never heard Vah perform, but Luke’s performance does an incredible job of summoning an energy and outrage around Thatcherite politics. Lady Winter, Luke’s reconstruction of the sort of poem Vah might have done, is pitch-perfect and stirring.
Given that this is my response to a show about time-travel, it’s ironic that it’s as late as it is. I also have a weird feeling, as if it might not be the only time that I’ve written this. There could be other timelines where I’m also writing descriptions of the events – or where I managed to post them sooner.
So, obviously Rosy Carrick’s show Passionate Machine, was amazing. I mean, I’d say that even if it wasn’t (if you want a more objective review, check out the one from the Brighton Argus). Hopefully, I can persuade you there were many other things that made it great, not just that I want to stay friends with her. The show describes a strange period in Rosy’s life where she received messages that could only come from the future, sent by a mysterious figure. These messages related to Rosy’s PhD research into the great Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
Rosy’s show was spoken word rather than poetry, and incorporated video footage and images (as well as an audio recording of me). Watching it I was impressed at what Rosy had done with the one-man-show. It’s a lot more interesting than someone simply standing up and reciting things. She’d used the format to its limit, for example handing envelopes of evidence to the audience as they arrived. There are also some moving moments showing how people had responded to the story online.
The performance we saw was a work-in-progress, but it was pretty much complete and incredibly moving. I liked that the show did not get bogged down in the mechanics of time travel, taking it for granted and working with that. The resulting story is more personal and emotional than a lot of similar portrayals. As the show explains, we are all time-travellers in a sense, relentlessly pushed forward, able only to send messages forwards. Rosy has had a very different experience.
For me it’s a very different show than for most of the audience, as I was around for a lot of it. Rosy talks about the university course where she first discovered Vladimir Mayakovsky. Rosy was, apparently exasperated by my foolish questions in that class, but warmed to me when we chatted. I ended up looking after her pet cat Squeaky one Easter while I wrote an term paper on Wuthering Heights and, later, a chunk of my dissertation. We’ve been friends since then, through all sorts of adventures. And a lot of Rocky films.
Sussex is haunted by stories. Sometimes it seems that folklore is confined to books, but it’s still out there. Looking at Sussex myths, ghosts and chalk, this talk will show how our world is just as strange as it has ever been. There are ghosts all around us. James Burt looks Sussex legends over the years, drawing links between them, and asking why these stories have changed over the years.
I’m giving a performance at the next Small Story Cabaret event, on 8th July at Westgate Chapel in Lewes. The theme of the night is ‘Hoof and Horn’, which means stories of magic and the occult. I will be performing a new ‘thing’:
Chalk Ghosts Sussex is haunted by stories. Sometimes it seems that folklore is confined to books, but it’s still out there. Looking at Sussex myths, ghosts and chalk, this talk will show how our world is just as strange as it has ever been. There are ghosts all around us.
Tara originally asked me if I wanted to do a version of the talk on Slenderman that she saw at the Towner in 2014. This started out as a performance at 2014’s Brighton Digital Festival and was given in a longer version at Wilderness last year. I’ve also been talking about Sussex folklore at last year’s Brighton fringe and in my performance for Two Knocks for Yes. This talk brings together a lot of those threads.
Chalk Ghosts is very much based around Sussex. It’s about what this county means to me – I’ve lived here since I was 2 or 3 years old. I’m currently making projections and recordings, and figuring out how best to use the space. I have no idea quite what this will turn out to be, but it won’t be boring.
Last Friday I spoke as part of the Two Knocks performance at St Andrew’s Church in Hove. I’d been involved in some early discussion and it sounded so ambitious that, when I was invited to participate I had to say yes.
I gave a talk about ‘The Folklore of Death and Water’. It was a deliberately bland title, playing with some of my obsessions while feeding into other aspects of the event. I was a little nervous as the night approached, particularly as the audience hit 100, but I was fairly happy with my performance.
The venue was probably the most atmospheric place I’ve ever performed. It was incredible speaking from the pulpit, the audience dimly lit in front of me. The building was sufficiently spooky to freak me out completely during rehearsals. I was talking while Curtis listened, Emily ran tech and Simon checked his kit. We had the doors locked so that we weren’t disturbed. From where I was I could see through the doorway into the church’s entrance corridor. As I described a haunting, I saw a shape move past the doorway. The rehearsal fell apart as I started laughing nervously. I’m not the sort of person who imagines seeing things.
As I said in the talk, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in hauntings. Even during daytime rehearsals, the effect of the performance and venue was spooky. I hope there are more of these in the future. Future events will be announced via the Two Knocks mailing list and the soundtrack is online.
This Thursday, May 14th, I will be appearing at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery as part of their Nocturnal event. I will be talking twice during the evening, about night, sleep and dreams. The research I’ve done has been fascinating, and I am looking forward to sharing it.
There are a load of other things happening – music, mask-making, an awesome cocktail menu, video and a sound installation from Gazelle Twin. It should be a fantastic night!
It’s a month until the Brighton Fringe Festival kicks off, and I’ve been buying lots of tickets. The thing I’m most looking forward to is How to be Fat, a one-woman show by my friend Mathilda, one of the organisers of Slash/Night. From what I’ve been told so far this will be funny and provocative. She’s been blogging about her preparations, including how to be on a Diet.
Another highlight is the Late Show: Election Night Special, which will be screen the election results until 9 in the morning. I love election broadcasts, even if they’re likely to go the way I want. Hopefully I can book Friday May 8th off work, as I won’t be getting any sleep the night before. Apparently (the award-winning) Chris Parkinson is involved with this show in some manner.
I met Bill Jones through the Short Fuse nights many years ago. I loved his work and invited him to perform at a night I ran. He moved away to Stroud but is returning to Brighton with his show Graveside Manner. Another poet is John Osborn, performing his first show. John’s poem ‘Most people aren’t that happy anyway’ is one of my favourite poems.
Two things I’ve booked based on the fringe ads are The Skeleton Coast and What’s in the Punch. The first of these is a talk about an expedition along the Skeleton Coast, a brutal stretch of African coastline. What’s in the Punch is a play about the 352-year-old Mr. Punch being in a nursing home.
As ever, the Odditorium, curated by the Infamous Dr. Bramwell, offers a variety of different topics. I’ve booked tickets to their Lost Worlds of Albion and Occult Brighton events. At the end of the month I’ll be one of the speakers at the Death in Brighton event. The Spiegeltent is also hosting club nights by Copperdollar and Dynamite Booglaoo.
On top of all this, puppeteer Daisy Jordan has just announced a new show with Jane Bom-bane featuring “song, puppetry and untold surprise” which I need to fit in somehow. This looks like being a very good fringe.
Back at the start of March, Rosy asked if I wanted to be local spoken-word artist at Hammer and Tongue in April. I suggested I reworked the piece I did for Artists, Models, Inc a few years back, “adding audio/visual elements – basically, a psychogeographical response to Brighton.” Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I meant by that, and reworking the original piece so much that only a few sentences of the original remain.
So: I’ll be performing this ten-minute thing at Hammer and Tongue, this Thursday. Doors open 7:30pm at the Komedia Studio and entry is £6 on the door. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out and looking forward to see what the audience make of it – I’m aiming for either blank incomprehension or rapturous applause. The Infamous Muffy Hunter saw it last night and liked it, so that’s a good sign.
Also performing is Hannah Silva. Rosy has been trying to book Hannah for some time. I recently read Hannah’s book Forms of Protest; the poems are both gripping and experimental and I can’t wait to see them performed live. It’s going to be an amazing evening – and it’s the night before the Good Friday bank holiday, so you can all stay out late!
After a quiet winter, I have a few upcoming events:
On April 2nd, I will be performing at Brighton’s Hammer and Tongue as local poet. I’ve promised Rosy a psychogeographical multi-media spoken word piece about Brighton. I’m not entirely sure what that means so I am frantically working on something that fits the description. If that fails, expect something about Clowns. Tickets £6 on the door open, doors 7:30pm, show starts 8-ish.
On April 16th I will be speaking at the Catalyst Club. The Catalyst is a Brighton institution, where three people speak about their passions. The subjects in question aren’t announced until the event starts, so you don’t know what you’ll hear about, but it is always interesting. Come along and find out what I’ve been researching.
I’m waiting to hear about a Brighton Fringe event, as well as a festival booking in August, doing an expanded version of my talk, The Internet Will Destroy Us.
Slash/Night 2 happened way back in mid-February and was amazing. I organised the first Slash/Night because I am fascinated the culture of slash. The second event was organised by Muffy Hunter and Mathilda Gregory, which meant I could sit back and watch – although I was roped in to running the lights and sound, which I was brilliant at.
For me, the highlight was Helen Raven‘s talk on the pre-history of Slash. One of the things I love about slash is how it has thrived underground, with enthusiastic, generous audiences. It was good to hear about the pre-Internet slash days and to see some of the Samizdat publications. Hearing Helen Raven talk about her long career as a slash writer was inspiring too, particularly strange and creative world of Professionals slash.