When I started writing Frontal Lobotomy, I was asked the question Who is Tom Waits to me? I wrote down all of the roles he's played in my life, and from that came the poem 'Late Night Conversation', which I perform while manipulating a trilby hat about halfway through the show, it's one of my favourite moments. Sometimes when I read that poem in rehearsals (which, up to now, I have always been alone for) I get a little bit tearful. I think about how it will sound when Tom Waits is no longer with us - will I have to change it? Will I even get the words out? Over last Christmas I experienced what I'm calling 'spiralling self-doubt' over the show, I couldn't believe how well it done so far, and was terrified that I wasn't good enough. A successful musician friend I explained this to the other night asked me why I had written 'Frontal Lobotomy', I could've thought of something profound, or worthy, or gone into a long monologue on my creative process, but instead I chose to be simple and honest; 'I just really love Tom Waits.' He laughed. I'm still more clown than poet.
I've started working with a director; my good friend Simon Nader (I checked that he wouldn't mind me using his name here). We went to university together, saw each other only a handful of times in the intermittent *coughs nearly 20 years, and then were reunited at the Edinburgh Fringe last year - where Frontal Lobotomy debuted. Simon saw the show a number of times at the Fringe (he received the first ever lipstick lobotomy, and has never forgiven me) and was a huge help and encouragement to me there and since. I think we probably have quite contrasting tastes when it comes to theatre, and our training pathways were considerably different - I know he'll help me as he already loves the show and sees it's potential. Having worked a little bit with Simon before my performance on April 8th in London, I can already see how much I've taken for granted in my vocal delivery. Both Simon and the friends who saw the show last week commented on how well I moved, the slow movement being really tantalising and full of tension, but allowing time for all of the words to be digested. The trouble is that many of the poems and stories are coming out flat or monotone, I'm not yet living the words fully, there is room for much more variation and play - the key word in Simon's feedback was play. The show is endearing, it's sweet, and very strange, but I know that I haven't fully connected with it yet.
As a burlesque performer Jeu Jeu la Foille was just my name, my brand I suppose. It's means Play the Fool' and it can mean 'Play the Madwoman.' I'd already had the name for a few months when another performer I met, who day-jobbed as a psychiatrist, said that 'Foille Jeu' was a term used to describe a split personality. And now people ask me 'Who is Jeu Jeu la Foille?' 'Where is she? Is it her bedroom?' 'Has she gone mad?' 'Is she having a dream?' There is a line I love from a Tom Waits song that I've forgotten the name of; 'All the places that I'm dreaming of, are they dreaming of me?'
So I'm slowly building up a character profile.....working out the given circumstances.....all that stuff you're supposed to do BEFORE you start doing the acting. My teacher self is having strong words with my creator self.
Onto the writing stuff, which is what I really love! I started writing some HAIKUS! I have lots of other forms of poetry in the show; beat poems, narrative poems, a sonnet, a limerick, rhyming couplets, but no little haikus. Dr Walter Freeman wrote poems in his spare time, and often his patients wrote him thank you poems. - I have one in the show that I read out like a letter from Jeu Jeu la Foille, and I wanted to include another letter or note somewhere from Freeman to Jeu Jeu.
The only rule for haikus is that they are composed of three lines, with 5 / 7 / 5 syllables per line. There is often a juxtaposition of ideas and a seasonal reference. I've made a start on a haiku letter, I'm not happy with it yet, but I will persist.
Dear Jeu Jeu la Foille
Doctor Walter Freeman here
How are you feeling?
Maybe you feel strange
Maybe you feel null and void
Can I come visit you soon
Perhaps there's success
Bottom photo by me on Instagram @jeujeulafoille