Geckos, and indeed lizards of any kind, are not a regular part of my life in Southampton. Despite being on the south coast, the climate here – and, indeed, in my flat – is not well suited to the thriving of members of infraorder Gekkota. Too many frosts for a start – and there are more on the way, if the Met Office know their onions. Despite this potentially ominous background, last week two quite different geckos formed the spine of my cultural week.
The first Gecko was the theatre company with their production The Wedding at NST Campus. It must be said that the evening started rather well in the re-painted cafe of the theatre which is now offering Raiona from Red Cat‘s Untamed range of bottled beer. At 6% ABV, this is rather stronger than I would normally consume pre-gig, but it was a smallish bottle and so I took a punt. It was a very fine tipple and, in common with several of Red Cat‘s less mainstream offerings, the bottle label boasted particularly fine graphic design. It suggests a slightly uncommon degree of care in their business. The whole thing was rather a work of art: covering at least four of the standard five senses.
When I collected my ticket that evening, I discovered that the ‘play’ would be over in 80 minutes, no interval. As I’ve said before, I do approve of any production where I’m home at a sensible time – or can catch a subsequent late gig. Whenever I see that a play is much more than two hours, my heart sinks and I start thinking that, regardless of the excellence of any reviews, there is probably a better use (or uses) of my time. I do feel that the role of the editor is foolishly over-looked in many areas of the arts: indeed, this very blog is clearly crying out for some attention from a whole team of editors but sadly the budget does not allow. Not knowing of the lack of an interval, I had already acquired an ice-cream voucher (it reduces the cost) for use (and sustenance, once it had undergone a secular trans-substantiation) in the now non-existent interval. So, the evening started with one of the less well-renowned pairings of foodstuffs: beer and ice-cream. It is possible that the Raiona had gone to my head, or perhaps the sense of uncharacteristic adventure arose elsewhere, but I decided to sample salted caramel ice-cream for the first time: well, my heart has frankly been taking it easy for far too long and there is nothing like the combination of saturated fat, salt and sugar to force it from its comfortable lethargy. While I can’t speak for my heart (though it still seems to be working), my taste-buds certainly enjoyed the sweet-and-salty treat and it seemed to sit very comfortably with the pale ale.
The ‘play’ itself was an extraordinarily original production. It contained a lot of dance and physical theatre and the ‘text’ was in multiple languages – at least eight that I managed to identify. The text was not translated, though I could follow the English and some of a couple of other European languages, but the acting and dance still managed to carry the narrative(s). I cannot claim to understand everything that was going on – and I’ve spoken to a few other people how had the good fortune to see it, and neither can they (and we don’t really want anyone to explain it: some mystery in life is good) – but it was a truly amazing and entertaining evening. It used a wider range of theatrical ideas – many I’d not seen before – than anything I have previously seen on stage. For the second time in a month, I found myself slack-jawed in astonishment at the creativity of others. I’d say it was about the importance of coming together, rather than allowing ourselves to be divided, and perhaps about over-throwing unjust rulers: so, not without a certain topical resonance.
The second Gecko was a young chap (not his real name, which is rather more mundane) who sings and plays the guitar – and provides some patter in-between. I’d wanted to see him for a while, deducing he might be to my taste given that he had toured with Harry and Chris: the UK’s foremost proponents of comedy-jazz rap, who I discovered when they visited Southampton as part of the bi-monthly 451 poetry event at NST a couple of years ago. My extrapolation proved accurate and the young lad provided a very entertaining, funny evening at the Art House. He is very fine musician and a consummate and witty wordsmith – putting my own efforts in both areas to shame.
The guitar skills are coming slowly as I attempt to re-train my fingers at this late stage in their existence, but at least I am practicing them regularly. Any efforts at the word-forge to improve my prosody are being far less diligently applied: I have vague plans to write a roundel and a nonet. I am also developing my own form of poem based on the ideas of Oulipo and inspired by my attempt at a univocalic. I want to try and write a poem where you can use all the vowels, but they must be used in order, i.e. AEIOU, after you have used U you must return to A. I think this also has links with the ideas of the musical serialists of the first half of the 20th century. Whilst this started as a wizard wheeze to develop a certain (admittedly low level of) fame, my new verse form is fiendishly difficult to write and places some very challenging restrictions on word choice. I think I may have to allow the letter Y to be used whenever you wish (or need).
If I’m serious about the poetry, at some point I may have to write a second poem in a form previously attempted. However, I’m not sure that I’m ready to tackle the difficult sophomore sonnet: at this stage, I’m still relying on beginner’s luck for significant input into my verse but fear this approach my be unsustainable. Another challenge is finding suitable subject matter to explore through verse, the tightly defined form helps overcome the challenge of the blank sheet of paper (or screen) to an extent but you still need a topic and, in my case, some way of reining in may natural loquacity. I have also started to worry that actual poets have access to my attempts (this being a public space) and I may be causing them actual pain. I do encounter poets on a regular basis and there is a risk that they will wish to remonstrate with me for parking my poorly formed tanks on their lawn. I may have to transfer the editing budget to personal protection…
In around 90 minutes, I am off to a Maple Leaf Lounge Session which, like ancient Gaul, is divided into three parts (albeit two sets thereof) and it strikes me this could work rather nicely with the structure of the roundel. (I have a feeling that young Gecko singing in the background – from his latest album Volcano – might have brought much needed inspiration to my tired brain.) Any lovers of Algernon Charles Swinburne may wish to start bracing themselves now…