Thursday, 29 April 2010

Grand-Daddy Long Legs

His spindly legs will once have been swift and fearless,
Slim knitting needles stepping out with precision.

Now they tread fearfully, delicate, old as his ancient cobweb,
Slip sliding, weakened, across bathroom tiles. Morning, Freddie.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Seagull at YTR - Is Pierce Reid the new Ben Whishaw?

My ruminations on Chekhov's The Seagull, after a great production at York Theatre Royal, are manifold. Some clear, strong performances from a number of the cast, like Kevin McGowan (Dorn), Julie Watson (Arkadina) and Paul Shelley (Sorin), and in particular from the Royal Scottish Academy of Drama and Music students Pierce Reid (as Konstantin, or Kostya) and Olivia Knowles once she gets into the swing of it (playing Masha).

I was not so convinced by Jessica Bilé as Nina, despite her fresh vitality, but perhaps that's because the character herself annoys me. Her sycophantic, dream-clouded vision of celebrity, in the form of her interest (and even infatuation?) with Trigorin, played with silver-fox, obscure sex appeal by Marcello Walton, struck me as selfish, infantile, and just plain blind. She pays for it with a harsh fate though, so perhaps the outcome of the play is meant to balance out her faults with the suffering she eventually bears.

For those who are not familiar with The Seagull's finale, I won't spoil it, as I'd hate to lessen for others the impact that I felt so strongly; needless to say, however, it truly brought home to me how well Chekhov has crafted the final act, and indeed, the play as a whole. I never quite believed that Kostya had the strength of resolve to carry out his plan, but I was proved wrong, which seemed fitting in the context of the penultimate, emotive scene.

On contemplation of the play itself, I find myself unable to ignore the resonances with Hamlet, and of course, they are spelled out to a certain degree. As one of the directors said in the post-show talk with the cast however (I missed whether it was John Kazek or Hugh Hodgart in my quick nip to the bar), a great writer never lets such references cloud his characters' actions and judgement, they must never be aware of them. Only of their motivation, as people. To paraphrase (as sadly, the dictaphone was not in hand) a great writer has great - in the sense of size - ideas which influence things in a much larger, broader, subtler way. Something I should try and remember, then.

Perhaps nudged by this remembrance of Hamlet, the similarity between Pierce Reid and Ben Whishaw - who groundbreakingly played Hamlet in a 'teenage-angst' fashion for Trevor Nunn's production at (not the National as I mistakenly claim but rather) the Old Vic a number of years ago - presented itself to me. Though there are clear differences - Whishaw's Hamlet seemed more consciously aware of his stroppiness as a tool for extracting guilt from his mother Gertrude, as opposed to the heart-sprung purity of Reid's writerly torment - strong talent nevertheless reinforces the comparison. Is Pierce Reid the new Ben Whishaw? While I hesitate to make such a parallel for the flippancy of a headline, there is surely no harm in predicting success for the young Scot.

This collaboration between Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and York Theatre Royal is something that we should laud and encourage, and I look forward to seeing more of this support for emerging talent across Britain.

Tickets for the last five performances of The Seagull at York Theatre Royal's Main Stage (which include 3 evening shows and two matinees) are available from

Friday, 23 April 2010

Choice gem from my facebook chats: it's a WINNER...

My response to the simple question, "hows things?":

"goood. busy. working on a funding application for barefoot in the park. and musical's got a song structure! as has my set of performance poems. SO everything's chugging along nicely...
like an oversized, pregnant steam engine waiting to burst its guts across the rails."

Where did this come from? I could probably psychoanalyse, and say the steam train stems from my father's love of trainspotting, and the pregnancy from how swollen my brain feels at the moment from the excessive number of activities I'm involving myself in..... But that would ruin all the work of the image in the first place. Dayyym.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Want Some Wine?

(Written in March)

In the beginning, she tried to follow them.

Onto their trains, bandwaggoning
their homeward trajectories,
as she clutched the flagon's worth
of wine to her side, through
the thinning canvas bag
slung drooping across her shoulders.

She hovered, like a waiting
acquaintance, in a deflating
social encounter, ignored
and unworthy of introduction,
an awkward loose thread hanging
off the structured blouse of a
housewife, noted and
dismissed with irritation.

She would open her mouth wide
like a post box slot,
issuing forth all she had received
in unstamped, authentic gibberish.

Want some wine?

When they shrugged her off,
she learnt. Learnt to sit
next to silent consumers in Burger King,
learnt to pick the ones
who were least likely to shoo her away
with an irritable scowl,
most likely to permit her presence
for a few precious moments

Want some wine? she said, foot nervy
and fettered at Waterloo.
I wish my lazy compassion
had proved me more worthy,
when all I can say,
to this woman with the mad croaking laugh, is
Did you have a good day?

[Now this is as far as I've got. It could go on with "As she hunkers off, da da...", I'm not sure. We'll see.]

Oswald's Pale Persicaria is Up Here

I've just read Alice Oswald's poem "Pale Persicaria", from her newly-Ted Hughes' award-winning collection Weeds and Wild Flowers. It's beautiful, and really resonated with a poem I wrote recently, called Up Here, just below this blogpost.

Especially the fourth stanza, with its daintily optimistic, intangible, delicate frustration:

"Smoke-faint floating hope
Impatient hope. Immense
lustless listless wishfulness
under her angle-poise heart."

In fact, there are so many lines I want to snap up like a dragon and hoard for future enjoyment. So here are the first two stanzas, for sneaky future peeks -

"In a ditch by the roadside,
full of sorrow sleepless,
under her breath, encouraging herself,
hands clasped in hope, long fingers.

No openings, no outlets in her eyes.
Lit dimly from within,
enclosed in longing.
It's dark in love. No sign. Still waiting."

FYI, I read the poem through this fab facebook application:

P.S. I have to say, that checking out a cheeky photo of the flower itself on Google, it's not quite as delightful as Alice Oswald's poem. But I guess that's what the imagination is for!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Up Here

So, this one's about a few things - foundationless hope, madness, paranoia - the usual bag for a whinging poet. Let me know what you think. I'll be intrigued to find out.


I'm suspended in a mad crush
A rushing influx of bad dreams
and nightmares, up here.
They have seized what was sane
And plain incinerated much of glad reams
of daydreams, up here.


Transfixed, in my fixations with a virtual world
That fix my fertile mind with sprouting roots
Springing future-wards without water, steam
without a flame, fanning upwards until I dangle
and am finally dropped to the Earth with a rush
of flushed fears and flustered paranoia. Help me.
But there is no help for the wicked, no one mourns
their quickening belly-mind teaming with Kind,
Sickening for their helpless existence in a hapless
fraudulent destiny that can only work up here.

Up here, I'm a fucking psycho, I feel the strains
shriek through and need to scratch at my brain's
itch, that's like no itch I've felt before, a monster
birthing itself with my cells for military muster
As skull-wide, an unprompted tide flows out
into a sea of eternal bliss and without doubt
this madness hinges on unfounded forces,
relations not destined for the pain of divorce's
weight. Sky-high, my hopes rise and rise
in hot-air balloons with the limitless lies
of an unruly pilot, steering my imagination
up, up, up and away; "Hello, institution."


Up here,
I am on my own,
I am mother,
I am daughter,
I am wife.
I am lover.
I am writer,
I am neither.

And I can't stand it
any longer.


An arrow would best describe you.

The simplest communication
a human can utilise -
effortless, efficient

one line bent in half
by another

I'm not sure which one
I am

I like to think I'm
forceful, strong

But I'm broken in two
by you

And you don't even
know it.

So I'll get straight to the

Please find me soon, or
I will be lost.