I'm A Fool For April
This time twenty-nine years ago my first memory was made. I was nearly three, and I looked at my newborn sister through the wire mesh of the hospital cart she'd been placed in. She was small, pink and be-blanketed, and I distinctly remember wondering why they'd put my tiny new sister in a shopping trolley.
Today it's sunny, and she is far away, in London. Possibly later things will get out of control and she will find herself back in a shopping trolley, careening around the streets of Hackney embroiled in some kind of wild birthday jape. I choose to believe she might.
So, today it's sunny, and it's my sister's birthday, and I have had some good news. The sort of news that prompted me to jump up and down pump my fist in the manner of someone considerably sportier than I. The sort of news that's such a surprise and relief that I was left a bit shaky and giddy and hot.
(I don't know if I can tell you yet, but I'll tell you later. Over a pint, maybe. Fancy it?)
I'm back in Manchester now, having been in Leeds off and on for some weeks working on It Burns It All Clean for West Yorkshire Playhouse's Transform Festival. Selina Thompson was the lead artist, with Sara and I working on it with her, developing our characters and pieces of performance. It is somewhere between an immersive theatre piece and an installation, and was out of the theatre in a secret location. Every show Sara and I would go and meet the audience at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, before snaking them through the streets of Leeds to start the show. It was a new experience for me having to hold a character throughout an immersive show, where the audience are part of the game. Some people are nervous, quietly obedient and a bit frightened, while others play up and get a bit naughty. Not totally unlike teaching, really. Particularly the part where you have to hold your face in a stern expression whilst actually finding the naughtiness pretty funny.
So far I have seen one review, which described me as "a woman so deranged she makes Pam from ‘The League of Gentlemen’ look sane". I suppose it's talking about my character, not me, but I might still get in on a t-shirt, or tattoo it on part of my body at the very least.
Transform was lovely, buzzy and exciting. We didn't get a chance to see any other work as we were doing up to four shows a day, but there were loads of people about. It felt a bit like Edinburgh, but with fewer cobbles and wearily angry Scots.
On Saturday night we also did two Eggs Collective sets at the late night show in the Playhouse. Lydia came up from London and Roxy came over from Manchester, so Sara and I finished our fourth show of It Burns It All Clean at about 10.30pm and dashed over to the Playhouse to get ready. Within the hour we were sitting on the bar, changed out of our futuristic power suits and into our Ladies Night gear, all stacked shoes, birds nest hair and spiderleg lashes. I belted out the Thong Song as I usually do, then an hour later we did another set, dancing with the crowd and hanging off people, instigating a massive love-in. "I bloody love you" I slurred into the face of slightly nervous-looking stranger. "I love you too" he replied. "I mean, you're terrifying, but I do love you."
Sara and I arrived back in Manchester yesterday afternoon, broken but happy.
It's sunny, and we've got the window open. People are sitting outside Kim by the Sea, the bar downstairs, drinking in the beer and the sunshine. We just heard the a big group clink glasses joyously, all cheering and there was even the odd "woo". Then a woman sighed happily "and on a Tuesday, too!".
I'm starting to think about my new solo show, Dirty Old River. The first performance is on 24th May at The Lowry, then I'm performing it again on 25th July at Rich Mix in London as part of a triple bill.
It's going to be about loneliness, belonging and connection. It'll be a series of songs and stories, with me singing and telling stories and playing my cello. I'll use a loop pedal, but other than that it'll be low tech, quite intimate. More of a gig than a theatre show. Confessional, cabaret, I'm calling it. Hopefully it'll be quite funny and sad and weird and good. Just the usual aspirations, really.
I've been working on different ways of singing and playing cello, other than my usual old trick of doing some basic cello chords and singing over the top of them. I want to play around with it, so that sometimes voice accompanies cello, and sometimes they do a proper duet. It feels like it makes a lot of sense to go down this road, and I can't wait.
Perhaps this is the summer starting. Maybe it's just April, and my sister's birthday, and it's summer. Every so often I remember my good news and have to shut my eyes for a moment, trying not to wonder whether it's the cruellest April Fool ever.
But the sun is out, the world is warm and all is good. And on a Tuesday, too!
How are you?