Picture - first draft of my Brighton Fringe poster.
I sometimes write them in birthday cards for people I know well. When I was nine I knew one of Roald Dahl’s ‘Dirty Beasts’ off by heart. It was the one about the pig, and I played Farmer Bland in a choir performance at Eastleigh Town Hall - now The Point Theatre. I once was so absorbed in a Dr Seuss book during library time at primary school, that when I looked up, the whole class had gone back to our classroom, and the teacher was left with me there, smiling. I kept journals and wrote angsty poetry in my teens.. I pretty much swerved poetry for the whole of university. I could never understand why poetry and plays were kept in the same area in every bookshop. I remember one night in one of our student houses seeing the opening to the Mike Myer’s film ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer.’ In it he performs a very silly jazz beat poem. In that same year I must’ve heard Tom Waits for the first time. I started reading Jack Kerouac books. Slowly, I learned about William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. I discovered a CD of ‘The Black Rider’ in Lewisham library, during very frugal times in the years following university. I borrowed many CD’s from them, until they started charging. I discovered Nick Cave then too. I made tapes of all the albums. And I received many tapes from others over this point too. Including most of Tom Waits’ back catalogue.
‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Frontal Lobotomy’ is existentialist in its tone. It’s very much under the influence of Tom Waits, but infused within are references to Medusa, mainly at the start. Then the show concludes with a myth about a child that was lost, and an evil influence that took over the temple. The final scenes involve me singing a song (badly) about a series of strange dreams I had, then putting my little Waits puppet to bed. It is a comforting ending, and a few people have fallen asleep during the show. I haven’t minded that all, I wonder what kind of dream they had.
I’ve taken that show to many audiences. And the reactions are so different. I will always be very fond of it, and I usually enjoy performing it. But I don’t push it on anyone anymore.
‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto’ (I began using rhyming titles from this point) was written while I was recovering from PTSD and first performed as a complete show when we began properly emerging out of lockdown in July 2021. This was quite a bumpy period in my life, I initially resisted it becoming a show, and covid meant that I couldn’t continue trying it in front of live audiences to even see if I liked what I was doing. In the meantime I’d turned ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ into a book and a film. At the end of 2020 I was all fired up. I got thinking more seriously about what I’d like to leave behind me, and there have been some profound moments of healing along this journey. I feel safe, but not attached to my life as it is now, as far as practically day to day.
I have begun to enjoy performing that show, and it reaches a new place every time I share it. But I’m very aware that it crystalises a moment in time, a speck in my life as a whole I hope. It’s a place I’m not at anymore. I hope to make a book and film of this one soon.
The final show I’m making as Jeu Jeu, feels like the long road home. I’ve done lots of new writing but haven’t wanted to share much of it. When I’ve told people what the show is about they’ve often grown quiet, or got very loud. I get all sorts of ideas for it, but to make it happen I need some sort of incentive, preferably a financial one that harms no one. There are costume and puppet ideas to try, but I’m going to make it with what I have available, like I always have. There are all sorts of other resources I can tap into too. I’ve made three unsuccessful funding applications since September 2020 and the latest I’m hoping for I won’t find out about until March 2024.
But most of what I do happens behind the scenes. The blogs I keep, mainly for myself these days, track things to an extent. And you can usually tell from the quotation at the top what kind of content I’ve been absorbing. I wanted to write here about where it began for me, and where I want it to go. I guess it’s a pivotal moment as I approach my 45th birthday. I want to make making art sustainable for me. I want to take my well-being into account, and keep learning to rest when needed. We aren’t only what we do out in the world, so much happens on the inside. I know with some extra money as a buffer for the year I could take a few workshops and see a few shows, things that I know nourish my soul and make it easier to create from. I want to create from peace and integration and connection, and this world is a hard place to do that from. I also recognise my tremendous privilege at being able to make and perform my own work.
I am coping with it all in my own way. Getting stuck into what is practical and achievable. I’m forever grateful for my home, and all the sanctuary it brings me. I’ve found joy in the company of groups of women this year in particular. All ages and types of women. But they all have healing, art, nature, good food and adventure in their offerings. And I am grateful for a seat at their table.
I took part in shows written by other people this year for the first time in a long time. I costumed several shows from a hut in the South Downs. I have a van, and a plan for it. The only big thing I have booked for next year is Brighton Fringe with ‘Testy Manifesto.’ There is another plan to go to Ireland in the late summer. Both are solo ventures. I’ve taken a bit of time to rest this Winter. I’ve no real plans for my birthday, but I intend to spend it well. There’s lots happening just before and just after, so I might not want to do too much. Last year I really splashed out, spent a lot of money (for me) because I really wanted to celebrate. And there have been many other reasons to celebrate over this past year. And long may they continue. But for now I am definitely out of money, and I’m going to need to work hard in these upcoming months in order to have another good year. I have cut back quite a lot, but there are things I need money for like converting the van, and getting to and from the fringes, and staying there overnight or for longer. I am very pleased with my van, it’s perfect for me, but it was the biggest purchase I have made for a while.
By this time next year I want to have finished a whole rough first draft of the next show, have performed extracts from it at various places, and have finalised costume, props and music. I will be mostly finished with ‘Testy Manifesto’ hopefully with a book and film nearing completion in some way. I have faith that the right things come at the right times. Everything might take longer than I want it to, but I’ve got enough to get on with for the next five years at least.
I realise now that I've been avoiding poetry open mics, and there are many reasons for that. I don't know how I move beyond those reasons. I think I'm probably hiding on some level.
The new show has a tentative title, it’s called ‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Pithy Obituary.’ I really had to wrestle to get this one to rhyme.
With so much love,