Tag Archives: Edinburgh

Chris, Peter, Rajni, Kieran, Chris, Chris, Deirdre, John.

I wrote this after a weekend in Edinburgh which included some of the festival, but not too much. It features 3 different men by the name of Chris, 8 people who I know and 1 person I don’t. The two pieces of theatre described in it are (in order) Men in the Cities by Chris Goode, and Confirmation by Chris Thorpe. You should go see them if you’re in Edinburgh. You should also go swim in the sea. Not on a beach near Dunbar, though. Leave that one for Deirdre.


I am sobbing in time with a stranger
This stranger has long blonde wavy hair
more than twice the length of mine
his shirt a loose, cloudy blue
punctuated with flowers.
I just gasped and he just gasped
I am not looking at him but I know that he is sobbing
and I want to put my hand over his.

I am sobbing I am crying
I cannot put my finger exactly on why
I am crying the most I have ever cried
in a public building
and the mechanism that leveraged this from me
is not there
I cannot see it.
I am not crying because I am sad for a character or story,
I am crying in a way that has been processed more
directly by whatever we mean
when we press our palms to where our hearts are not.

I have an overwhelming urge
to place my hand over the hand of the man
next to me
which I imagine is clenched
but really, I cannot see.


I have just read a sentence in a book
which might have knocked the air out of my lungs
had I been breathing in
A historian who wasn’t there
reporting an ancient warrior
who probably never said it
but still the worlds stick
matted seed in the spaniel’s fur of history:

“They create a desert and call it peace”


I am arguing with a boy about neoliberalism
When I say ‘boy’ – this man is a year or two older than me,
but I say ‘boy’ because I am sexually interested in him.
We are discussing neoliberalism
in a nice cafe in Hackney
after swimming around a reservoir at 8am on a Sunday morning
and I cannot answer his question.
This is one of the best conversations I have had in a long time.
I am briefly sad he has a girlfriend,
before I rally to try and explain why
a desert is not desirable ‘peace’,
why violence and destruction is not necessarily the opposite of it.
But I’m also not sure it shouldn’t be.


We are in a maze.
This is not a metaphor.
There is a maze in Crystal Palace Park
and it seemed amusing to go in it
but now we are stuck,
and it’s less amusing.

I am wondering if you can view a schematic of it online.


We sit at the centre of the maze.
Rajni says to me that she is not certain,
But she says it certainly.


I am shaking in my seat


My friend Kieran is saying to me
gently and lovingly with the knowledge
of how it might hurt me
“all coppers are bastards”
And I want to find a place to agree with him
but the best I can do is
“I, too, am a bastard”


I finally understand the cultural boycott of Israeli-funded theatre
I think it is right
I also realise this means that to follow my logic
it is wrong for me to take money from our government.


I am excruciatingly ill
I have been for 3 days and there are 3 more to follow
I have not slept and right now whatever I am watching on Netflix
has achieved an almost psychedelic level of boredom


Chris’ blue eyes meet mine
and I realise I have never seen him
in anything remotely like a suit.
My friend Chris might as well be wearing the skin
of another man.

His blue eyes rest on me, momentarily.
He tells me
(and all the people I am sitting with)
about a conversation he had with a national socialist.
He is angry. He is really angry.
He is talking about confirmation bias
but I am not quite listening because I think I already know what that is.

I worry that I have been wrong, for 10 years
to believe that people are basically,
are basically,


I love him but I will not tell him,
Oh, another bus stop.
It is late and hot dusty
London air shifts around us.


The play is over and the lights are on
I am one of the last to leave the place where it happened
I give the man with the long hair a small smile
he looked back
but that is all that happened.

I buy a whisky


We are on the beach where Deirdre met John.
Last spring my friend John died
and last summer and this summer
Dierdre and I have travelled to this beach
near Dunbar
and swum in the sea.

The sky is a ragged grey
high where it is evaporating to blue
but it’s grey where it meets the sea
and the quality of the sun is like
old metal
it stretches out along the water to meet me.

We do handstands underwater
and laugh and
when we get out we are
salt-water sticky.


I buy a whisky and write the words:

“I am sobbing in time with a stranger”.


A Conversation With My Father, post Edinburgh Festival 2013.

Northern Stage at St. Stephen's seen from Frederick Street.

Well, I did it. I’m sitting on the train back from what feels like 6 months of quite substantial things. Moving to London, having never really lived in a city. Running a marathon across a mountain. Passing my PhD viva. Making a solo show. Sustaining/scraping a living as a freelancer. And learning and performing 65-70 minutes worth of material for a 10 day run at Edinburgh Festival. I should feel proud, I expect. And in ways I am. But really all these are difficult in the anticipation, but once you get there, it’s just a case of putting one foot in front of the other, one word, or one line in front of the other, and trying to mean them.

The show itself was reasonably well received critically. A really intelligent 4 star review from Broadway Baby, 4 stars and a ‘hot show’ feature in the Scotsman, and a couple of lovely mentions from Lyn Gardner in the Guardian. Some very generous lovely tweets from people who saw it (some screencapped below). People who grasped my hand, who cried and hugged me, who said ‘we baby boomers are retiring, now, we who got our education for free, well we’ve got time on our hands now, and we’re fighting for you’, people who sent me messages talking about how talking about being allowed to be afraid is ok was very important to them, that made them think about the Troubles in Ireland, about a couple who lived between two police officers in during the Steel strikes – one who was up for the fight the other “the kind of police officer that was more like a social worker”, the older woman who told me about how her family had been victimised by the far right for years “actually, they are scum” she told me in reaction to a scene in the show where I talk about my difficulty with slogans. An senior arts council officer who told me afterwards he couldn’t work out why it was moving, that the quote of my flyer ‘unexpectedly moving’ was just it.

Some people didn’t like it. Some walked out with hardly a glance as I handed them something to take away with them. Others fidgeted, sighed in frustration, fell asleep. sat in stony silence when I show a funny picture of a funny jumper, and spent the whole time tapping into their mobile phone. I have become a much better behaved audience member after seeing how much you see and hear from that side.

And the show? I’m proud of it, I think. It does what I wanted it to. It fits together right and is as finely balanced as I could make it. I’d like to get it out to people who might more naturally side with the police if they were asked who ‘us’ and ‘them’ is for them. I did a lot of learning about performing. A lot about how each night is different, about when an audience doesn’t know you think you did it better last night, I started getting stubborn, not hurt, by people who demonstrably weren’t engaged, and that was a useful energy in that moment. I learnt about how tired I get, how much else I can sensibly do in a day, and that actually, things that engage my body and not my mind are fundamental to my being able to work well. Also the nerves of the first night make it feel like the best thing you ever did, and you won’t hit that again, but it’s ok. I felt like that anyway. Also, next show, make one that doesn’t require writing a thing out for every individual audience member. (spoiler).

And finally – massively supported again by Alex Kelly, technically, theatrically, and emotionally, throughout the two weeks. Thanks, Alex.

Where next? The lovely Gloria of Little Mighty is going to be booking me a tour for Autumn/Spring ’13/’14 (mostly the latter), and there’s been some other interest in it that might give it a life in other ways. More info if it actually happens.

Otherwise, I go into a couple of new interesting projects in October – as well as the Digital R&D project, I’m going to be working alongside an artist to help make a show about teenage girls and the internet (I’m sort of a digital/arts consultant artist), might get to work as producer on an exciting thing I can’t name yet, and am going to be making over at least a week and a half a NEW SHOW. One that this time is angry. And that will contain punk music. Stay tuned. And in the meantime here’s a screen cap of a section of the tweets about ACW on Twitter. I only know Jamie in real life, and Catherine as a brill thoughtful reviewer, the rest are genuine audience members. Imagine! People who paid to see me say things.