It’s a rainy evening in Winchester. I’ve been to the theatre this afternoon, with my mum, in Eastleigh. I’ve learned how to tell if I’ve had enough excitement for one week or day, and that its ok to take time for myself. And that I have a lot to reflect upon.
Beginning with Faversham Fringe last week. My first proper outing with my new van. The first time the full ‘Testy Manifesto’ was performed since Summer 2022. Faversham was quite rainy too. I occupied myself in Faversham on the morning of my show by walking around in the costume of the French Revolutionary character, and summoning people to a ‘meeting’ at the Guildhall that evening, while sliding my flyer over. Later on that afternoon I stood outside the Guildhall with my skeleton, and called out to passers-by who made eye contact; ‘Bonsoir, it is a beautiful evening for a revolution, no?’
I had many funny conversations with people, they played along. Some spoke in French to me. A man asked me what had happened to my eye (I’m wearing an eye-patch) and I told him I had been fighting for the freedom of Faversham. It was way more fun flyering in character, and a lovely couple I accosted on their way to the pub were intrigued enough to interrupt their planned night. I had seven people in the audience, and six of them were women.
They actually hold council meetings in the Guildhall in Faversham. It’s an odd but beautiful building, and there are portraits of all of the previous councillors and mayors down the walls. I wasn’t overjoyed about my performance. I messed up the beginning, and I had to fight to get over myself, and just get on with it. I did kick myself a bit afterwards, even though it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and that is how I consoled myself.
I’m actually starting to enjoy performing this show. I have a kind of fondness for it, and a fierce protection over it. I know its not perfect, and that it’s the best work I’ve done. I’ve edited out a riskier moment in the past three performances of ‘Testy Manifesto.’ It’s a small section of a part I’ve never really been entirely comfortable with, but it’s still implied in the music and costume. That particular section of the show, where I’m wearing nearly the least amount of clothing of all the costume changes, that’s never felt comfortable. So why make it even more awkward? That’s why I cut out the biggest risk (for me) I took in the making of the show.
The impulse had come to me during a rehearsal in the lead-up to the first performance in Guildford in July 2021. The feeling that I wanted to humiliate the skeleton character in some way. I tried it out in a very vulnerable first performance to an audience of one dear friend, in a barn on the Yorkshire Moors. They laughed and gasped so I kept it in. I continued to humiliate the skeleton onstage for the next several shows. But I decided that moment wasn’t needed when I did the show at Words and Whiskey in January 2023. There are already plenty of moments of discomfort. It was something that I had to try, but after a while it served its purpose, and that show (and I) didn’t need it anymore.
I have begun to trust the material more than I had before. I have begun to trust that I can pull it out of the bag when needed. And I might need to for the next performance, which is at Grant Sharkey’s new album launch at the Art House. The stage is very thin, but I think now I am ready to improvise a little bit. I think now at last I can have more fun.
That feels like a good place to end this.
But I still have niggling doubts that creep in the form of unexplained aches in my shoulder blades, wrist and neck. I know that I cannot be Jeu Jeu forever. But I am plodding on, and doing what I can to address those niggles. I’m making plans for more shows in 2024, and taking le plonge with writing a new show, and making myself accountable for that.