Shadows and Silhouettes

NOTE: This blog post is meant primarily as a personal record of something I did and the context in which I did it. It’s no more than that.

In the late sixties, when I was a teenager I used to sit in cafés and watch people. I don’t mean in a creepy way, I was just a casual observer. At seventeen I spent some time based in Paddington and worked as a Lugger – a Roadie’s assistant, carrying speakers and amps in through the back entrances,up the steep stairs, and along the narrow passages of nightclubs all over the UK. I grafted for several bands including Jon Hiseman’s Coliseum and Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. I shared a flat with other roadies who between them worked for some of the biggest names of that period.

The Roadies’ flat was in these buildings

During the gigs I usually stood at the side of the stage, idly taking in the bands’ performances and drinking a pint or two of weak beer, before helping to pack the gear back into the transit vans and zooming off along the motorways and A roads back to London. During the frantic journeys I sat in the passenger seat and chatted to the real Roadie, my friend Dave, helping to keep him awake as he floored the accelerator in a bid to minimise the journey time.

I was already writing poems and snippets by then. Here’s one written around that time.

Is this my life a Pawn or King
Both of them are used

Observation is my game
Suggesting things to you

Am I moulded to a pattern
Like rook or knight or bishop’s pawn

Or am I just the passive onlooker
Was it for watching I was spawned

Do I see and write it all down
Am I acting in this play

Do I criticize the script-theme
Do I feel a different way?

Maybe because of all the talent I encountered at that time I’ve never thought of myself as a performer, then or since, though on very few occasions over the decades I have had to step up and fill in a gap when no one else was available, for example I wrote and directed a play to help celebrate the new millennium and there was a small part I couldn’t fill. Reluctantly I took it on and somehow muddled through – thankfully it was a small part so my lack of acting skill didn’t distract from the other performances too much.

But then recently, I was asked by Mr Marc Roberts if I would like to read a few poems as part of an evening of music and words he was putting on in the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. I have read my work on a number of occasions so OK I thought, it’s worth doing. Maybe a couple of dozen people would turn up and maybe one or two of them would appreciate some of my rhymes.

Around the same time I, a friend told me about a weekend acting workshop that was coming up, run by Kevin Allen, the director of the cult film Twin Town, so in order to improve my performance skills I signed up for it. I loved doing the workshop, it was based on acting for film, using a draft of Kevin’s script for the sequel to Twin Town (coincidentally set in my home town of Llanelli). I can’t say any more about that at the moment since we were sworn to secrecy* but I am looking forward to seeing the film when it is released, hopefully sometime in the next 12 months, twenty years after the original was released.

*Stop Press* There’s a little bit more about that film here on the BBC News website – it’s now called ‘Tin Town’

and more info here http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/film-news/twin-town-director-kevin-allen-12432495

The acting techniques we practised that weekend were not directly related to appearing on a stage in an arts centre but I was inspired to develop a performance piece rather than simply reading poetry.

Fast forward to last Saturday night. The event was a sell out, standing room only, due, no doubt to the other great musicians and poets performing, including:

photos: Noel Dacey

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Gareth Bonello, known as The Gentle Good

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Steve Andrews, known as the Bard of Ely

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Rebecca May, known as Rudrani Maya

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Amanda Rackstraw

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Bryan Marshall

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Marc Roberts, Jimmy Otley and Ronnie Angel Pope, known as Zeuk

using the words of Frank Perie.

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Me: Known as Derec Jones

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I was due to do my bit in the middle of the second half of the evening just before 10 o’clock, so I had more than two hours to wind myself up and allow myself to get intimidated by the lovely acts from all the other performers. Anyway I did eventually get on that stage and deliver my twelve minute monologue or whatever it was. From the reaction and comments I received I’m sure that at least some people appreciated what I did.

Personally I enjoyed myself despite almost bottling it several times and did wonder how things may have turned out in a parallel universe if I’d pushed myself into performance of some sort when I was that teenager almost half a century ago. Ironically , the idea of parallel universes was one of the themes of my piece.

Somewhere in cyberspace there may be some photos and even a bit of mobile phone video footage of what I did . . .

Click here for the script in a Word Doc

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