On New Years Day I wrote my first new poem for probably six months. I wanted to try writing an Ode, as I hadn’t attempted one yet, though thinking about it, the whole of ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ is an ode to Tom Waits. I climbed up a big hill that day, and decided when I got home to write an ode to the hill. I made the mistake of titling the poem before starting it, and that kind of dictated where it went. It didn’t turn out very Ode-y. It got heard for the first time at Poetry Platform this week, and I followed it up with Pablo Neruda’s ‘Ode to Wine’ so the audience could hear a proper ode from a proper poet.
This morning, Lisa from Cabaret Playroom and I had a phone conversation where she gave the audience comments and her own feedback from my first extract performance of ‘Testy Manifesto.’ This is what the audience wrote - it’s all here, I’ve left nothing out!
Write one line to the artist about their work
Really enjoyed it. Your act is brilliant
Brilliant concept, lovely monologue
Very disciplined work. Well done
Some lovely writing and moments of performance
Enchanting, commanding and a bit Shakespeary
Very well done
Beautiful, honest and powerful
Mesmerising to watch and listen to
Very powerful and a beautiful rawness
Write a publicity quote for the act
Wonderful leftfield fun with arresting moments of pathos
We all have skeletons in our closet. Barbie is one of them!
Enchantress shares thought babble
Poetry of beautiful clarity and honesty
What was your favourite/ memorable moment
Barbie and the surreal text to link sections
Her honey voice and nice tits
The poetry - and the skeleton part was great too - scary
The Barbie jokes were funny
Barbie made me laugh with her ‘edifying’ comments
One thing to consider for future development
Smooth out the technical difficulties. Ten Ten Ten across the board!
Director. Performance needs shaping/editing
Shakespeare went over my head and so did she
Not sure about the French intro & outro
Keep going with it and keep in this direction
Why take off eye patch and beret so soon?
More movement to go with the storytelling
Just brilliant! Your poetry is really powerful - at times you could have let it breathe a little more (slower pace).
From the notes I made, Lisa’s lovely, helpful feedback, and through interpreting these comments, I’ve made a list of things to edit/change, develop and interrogate. I’m much harsher when giving myself feedback, but believe me when I say I have taken onboard all of the positive things too.
- Trust a techie. Get someone else to operate the sound. Doing my own tech worked out ok for ‘Frontal Lobotomy.’ Not this time.
- Slow down. The words are good, let them land.
- They loved the Barbie bit, they needed to laugh at that point, so the structure is working. Where else can I include more humour? Leave space for laughter.
- In the conversation I have with the skeleton at the start the language becomes more heightened. Can I work on more stylised movement for this section? Lisa said that I looked like I was a good mover - remember that I am, and I trained in physical theatre FFS. I can be bolder here. The opening image with the skeleton was striking, I think the audience were expecting more of this.
- The language is dense, flowery, like Shakespeare - but my likeable stage presence makes it natural and accessible. I remember one review of Frontal Lobotomy’ called it ‘Fantastical, yet accessible.’ Is this my trope? Could be.
- The French character needs developing, we need more of her. I’m going to get some French language CD’s from the library to play in my car - but only for the easy journeys. Writing in another language that I barely speak, and in a way that a mainly native English speakers will understand is a big challenge for me. And then delivering that correctly and confidently...fuck. Ok then, better get better.
- The subject matter is compelling, and there’s enough potential material to easily fill an hour. Aim for this.
- It worked well using a mic for the Barbie section. It was a nice contrast to the fragility of everything else. But although I could be heard fine during the rest of the piece, I need to be more aware of projection when music is playing underneath the speech.
- The music is lovely, using French music helps to maintain the convention that is introduced at the start.
- Work with a director / outside eye. This is the next step, and I really must get more comfortable with asking for help.
- Keep the simplicity and rawness, and find contrasts within this. It’s elegant, but at points can be theatricalised.
With much love,
The Ode to Recovery
And speeding up on the approach to a blind bend
Braking in a breath
Only a moment
The next kerb in view
Snatches the wheels and flips the car
Then the straight road reappears.
And a walking fire hazard ignites a tree, she also can’t see
That putting out the fire
By rolling in the dirt
For the next pair of eyes just flint
Until at last the countenance clears
And the question is answered with a gunshot and screech
I’m checking for holes
They say it takes a village
And the next time you sing
Will be the only song you’ll need
It’s bleak, today
But my heart is pounding for the right reasons
Taking in a breath
Look up for a moment
The next track starts to play
Sure, a good deal of it is classic PTSD
But maybe your bad points are just your personality
I know this ode to the road to recovery wasn’t really an ode
Neither is the road
But the signs get easier to read I’m told
They say climbing a hill diagonally
Makes it easier to do
This somehow seems absurd to me
I make it difficult
I save my breathlessness for the view
Am I still here if I’m not speaking
They say don’t go around, go through
Still my heart is pounding for the right reasons
But all along I knew
PS: Photo Credit James Millar. Thank you!