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
Gareth Bonello, known as The Gentle Good
Steve Andrews, known as the Bard of Ely
Rebecca May, known as Rudrani Maya
Marc Roberts, Jimmy Otley and Ronnie Angel Pope, known as Zeuk
using the words of Frank Perie.
Me: Known as Derec Jones
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 . . .
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