Sunday, 14 March 2010

Friday Night in the Pool

So yes, I went to Blackpool on Friday. And while I spotted the fabulous tower I didn't get to paddle or ride any donkey. The workshop with students from the Dead Good Poets Society at Blackpool and Fylde College was a full-on rollercoaster of mucking about, playing Tag, Hamlet, Trevor MacDonald and old-fashioned parlour games, all in the name of confidence building and stage presence. Everyone seemed to respond really positively to what I asked them to do, which always makes things a whole lot easier and more fun.

What was particularly lovely about this job was we were all, after our two hours together, off to town to perform our work to each other and, as it turned out, about fifty others, at the West Coast Rock Cafe.

I loved watching the people I'd worked with earlier stand in front of this sizeable crowd and hold their own, given that three hours earlier they'd been pretty nervous in front of their colleagues and quick to exit our makeshift stage.

It's one of my biggest gripes that us writers are given the most amazing degree of attention from an audience and people so often don't value this: barely acknowledging the audience, shuffling papers, taking up way more than their alloted time, apologising, reading work as if it's totally unfamiliar and committing a host of other irritants. Musicians would adore the kind of ardent listening we literature people get at a live literature/spoken word evening.

I know, I know. It's terrifyingly exposing for starters to stand up in front of people and read out your work, which is why I'm on my mission to support people in making that step. And those people who were in the audience at my first ever reading in Brighton back in 1994 ish would be the first to verify how appaulingly bad I was. I was supporting the American writer, Lynne Tillman, although more accurate would be to say I blocked and hindered any limbering up of the audience before she came on. Fortunately she wasn't in the least bit shy in telling me just how badly I'd read and ignored the audience and what she suggested I do to improve.

And boy does it make a difference when you enjoy a reading. It's such fun to communicate work so directly to people. And Friday was no exception in that. I succumbed to the mic, but off its stand so I could at least stomp about the stage. It helps both my memory and delivery if I can move. Although I'm not entirely sure how it helps people's concentration. Obviously it's meant to help, but I've never had any explicit responses to it. I mention this since, on the way home, I suddenly wondered how I would respond to someone delivering their work like I do. My first thought was I'd be terribly irritated at all that parading around. But I'm not sure. I think if they seemed absolutely genuine rather than prima donna-ish I might enjoy the physical punctuation. Maybe not. It's impossible to be objective. Maybe it's time for a video of my performance again, so I can be my ow audience member, however narcisstic that sounds.

Meanwhile, if you've seen me do anything of late and have an opinion, I'd be very interested to hear what you made of it.

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