Tapped in the Head.

By Garry Abbott

antique-water-tap-xdl1203

 

I doodled in profile,

Heads with taps leaking into pools

with stick men leaping, bathing and

waving from the mind stuff waters.

 

In margins and backs

of books for learning,

and later for working,

taking notes of notes of minutes of nothing.

I needed something to do.

 

Always taps and wheels,

from necks with no torso,

free to roam, but carbon static.

Stuck behind the lines of the page.

 

Perhaps it was the pressure

that needed letting?

Between skin and skull, swelling,

scalp and mind.

Under eyelids welling.

 

I doodled in profile.

Taps in the back of heads.

Leaking out mind stuff.

Floating still on the page.

 

And then I closed the book,

and just got on with it.

Writing about pubs? Yeah, I can do that.

This week I was delighted to watch a performance by the fledgling Potboiler Theatre group of ‘Stories from Pub Corners’ – a collection of six monologues performed in situ at the ‘Holy Inadequate’ real-ale pub in Etruria, Stoke on Trent (best pub name ever?).

I have to declare an interest here as I had written one of the monologues. I first came across the call-out for writers with ‘experience of pub stories’ to come forwards and send a draft script to be considered a few months ago. ‘That’s me’ I thought, ‘I’m a writer, and I’ve been to like, loads of pubs – I even used to live in one!’. So I applied, naturally.

As a writer you tend to often find yourself isolated. That’s not a bad thing, it’s obviously easier to write somewhere quiet without interruptions, but it does mean that getting out and collaborating when the opportunity presents itself is usually a very good idea.

This particular production started (for me) with an initial meeting with the producer/lead writer following my submission of a draft piece based on some brief character outlines. A week or so later I met the full team of actors, the director, the other writers and the musician when we came together to introduce ourselves, talk about our experiences with pubs, get some ideas flowing and workshop characters. I got to see a section of my early draft acted out, which was a first for me and a very valuable experience that I hope to have again (I’ve heard my work acted out before on radio, or even acted it myself vocally – but this was my first live, in-the-room type workshop for a visual performance of my work).

I was struck by just how well the actors brought the characters to life off the page. You are always told as a writer to ‘read it aloud’ to yourself when writing scripts especially, but even so, not being trained actors, we can never quite know what to expect when it does fall into someone else’s hands and interpretation. I was more than impressed by what I saw. These guys were really good, and seeing them in action, even with extremely early draft pieces, really helped me to go away afterwards and keep the performance in mind when writing the next draft. And to top it off – we all went to the pub after the meeting to see the space (and drink some pints).

After that it was back to the office to write a new draft for a new character outline before a further script reading (at the pub), the next week. This is where the fun, and challenge, of redrafting comes in. Originally I had written for a character in her forties, but due to the actors we had available, she had to be replaced with a younger character. So, I got given the brief of ‘Mad Lee’ – a young lad with a story to tell about the crazy night he is still recovering from, having woken up in bed with an unusual keepsake. At the script meeting, myself and the other writers read through and discussed our draft pieces. Again the value of this approach was soon obvious. Having other writers give you honest and constructive feedback in the development stages can really help you to sit back from what you’ve written and sharpen it up. It’s all too easy in any project not to see for looking. Fresh eyes and ears are very helpful indeed.

As it happened, due to what I will call prop-acquisition uncertainty, a certain central premise of my draft needed to be changed, quite dramatically! This meant I got to go away and once again rework the script. I was happy for this change. It forced me to once again go over it, consider the plot and the motivations of the character and further try to judge how the audience would react.

After that, the final-ish draft of the script made its way to the group for rehearsals (which I couldn’t attend thanks to a pretty gruelling gig schedule that weekend for my other life playing original music) – so it was only at the first performance I was able to get along to see my character come to life.

And what a life! The nature of this project is that the action takes place in a pub, amongst the audience, as if the characters are just another punter who suddenly decides to pipe up. This was often signalled by the great use of a musician who would start to play a related theme on a guitar prior to the monologue, sometimes dropping back in to add tension or comedy touches to pertinent sections and tying together the evening.

I won’t go into details of the monologues in case of any future performances, but I will say that as an audience member, it was a unique experience. Sometimes the characters were sitting right opposite me and it felt like being in intimate conversation. Sometimes they were across the room, and I felt voyeuristic, as if listening in to a particularly interesting discourse in a public space. For the last two characters, I was stood up, watching the performance though the curvature of the ornamental wood carved screens, as if framing my own director’s cut. And everyone else in and around that room was getting their own unique perspective, able not only to see the actors performance, but the reactions of the other audience members in contrast to the ‘eyes forward’ of traditional theatre.

The nerves of waiting to see my own character perform dissipated as soon as he started speaking and I recognised him (not just the actor playing him, the character himself). There he was, sitting a few feet away from me, alive, telling and owning his story independently of me, like some weird fully grown man-child I had contributed to bringing into this world for a short time: flying the coup.

Needles to say, the rest of the monologues were fantastically written and performed, and the evening was by all accounts a big success. If you hear the name ‘Potboiler Theatre’ in the future, come along. If this is anything to go by, you are sure to be in for a treat.

(Below is the poster for the performance last Monday. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for any announcements of future performances or projects from the Potboiler crew!)

pub corners

Pay-per-views.

By Garry Abbott

 

Pay-per-view violence, pay-per-view news,

pay-pay-view silence and pay-per-view views.

Who needs their own opinions when the market’s on the cheap?

Why spend your own time thinking when you’ve such a busy week?

Someone said that God is dead, they announced it just this evening,

now they don’t know what to think because they’ve always had that feeling

in the pit of their stomach where reason drowns our intuition,

and it’s clawing up the walls and it’s reaching for the ceiling.

Now it’s gasping for air in this dark and rancid lair,

it’s drowning in the acrid stench and it can’t reach the stairs.

Exiled and exhausted it starts to slip below.

Prey mercy it’s exalted as the flesh falls from its bones.

The thought was not at fault here, the thought had no agenda,

we buried it in adverts and it choked in our surrender.

It couldn’t get a purchase, but a purchase dug its grave.

It was packaged and diluted, and then sent so far away.

But just think of all the money, time and effort we have saved

by letting little notions get washed out by the waves.

When the oceans stretch so far that they seem to disappear,

What I can’t see can’t hurt me.

What I don’t know I don’t fear.

So pay for your silence and pay for your news.

Pay for peace of mind and pay for someone else’s views.

Pay for the violence and pay for the truth.

Pay to grow old gracefully or pay to keep your youth.

Pay for the payments, just a little service charge,

will pay for the raiment’s of someone else’s garbs.

Pay for the right just to pay, right?

Pay for the right to have your say, right?

Or don’t pay at all, and fall down through the cracks.

Think for yourself, but there’s no coming back.

From the moment we are born

we’re reborn as sheets of paper.

They don’t seek your enlightenment,

It’s the payments they are after.

 

 

Don’t wait until.

Hello,

Given the inordinate amount of time my work gives over to silliness (writing gags for radio, making daft cartoons, the occasional sit-com script and spoof article on this here blog), I sometimes forget to write ‘proper’ poems… which is a shame because the last, and only, poem I’ve written in the last few months has recently been published in a collection (which, if you are so inclined, you can buy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dance-Is-New-ebook/dp/B00FL887N8)

So I should do it more often I think, and below is one that popped up quite naturally the other day. The form isn’t standard, but I like that, it’s like a poem of two halves with a connecting line that marks the change, sitting poignantly (I hope) between white space. The space around lines can be important as the words themselves.

It is called ‘Don’t wait until’ – and if I had to brand it with a theme or meaning, I would guess it would be about being truthful to ones self, or different aspects of ones self, or even to others, if you wish. It’s really up to you.

 

Don’t wait until.

By Garry Abbott

 

Don’t wait until I’m broken down,

dejected, sore and torn in two.

Don’t wait until I’m meekly dimming shadows.

 

Don’t wait until the seeds I’ve sown,

have grown and stretched,

to fill the gaps in air,

and fallen limp with time now spent.

 

Don’t wait until the Earth and I have met again.

 

If time is pressing, press back harder,

with bruised and aching shoulders.

Until it does to you, not does you in.

Until you spiral bound in wholeness.

 

Don’t wait, until I’m broken down,

Don’t bear a weight of torment.

If time is pressing, press back harder,

Until you own the moment.