I remember once acting for a client who was buying a flat in another part of town without his wife’s knowledge: a bolt hole, he said, for a marriage going wrong. I didn’t stay at the firm long enough to find out whether he quietly sold it a year later, or needed me to act for him in the divorce.
Everyone has dualities, different selves we shuffle for the people we’re with or the place we’re in. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, or Confessions of a Justified Sinner, are just extreme expressions of the double lives we all sometimes lead. Most of us don’t go that far, but have different faces for our work colleagues, our friends, our nearest and dearest; little singularities, copies of ourselves we have to hand, either in the flesh or online. You don’t have to have a safe house in London’s East End, like Henry Jekyll did, or even a small town flat to escape your wife, to have a duality,.
And sometimes, one self has to dance with another.
I’m not so different, then. Similarly, the last couple of years I’ve been through, with a health scare, a Big Birthday, and losing nearest and dearest, isn’t such an unusual set of life events. What has surprised me is how it’s affected my creative output.
I was learning and listening to music long before I started trying to sell my writing. 30 years on, I’ve got a box of fiction and poetry magazines in the attic, a few anthologies I’ve featured in on my bookshelves, and three unpublished novels in a digital drawer. I also have three guitars, and a keyboard hooked into a digital audio interface. The latter’s down to Gavin Inglis, who got me into music editing and recording the way I imagine a drug dealer gets one into crack cocaine.
This show is the result of all of that, and meeting other musicians, such as my Tribute to Venus Carmichael collaborator, Kelly Brooks, and guitar players Mark Allan and Kenny Mackay. They say music uses a different part of your cerebral cortex altogether, and over the past two years that part has been lighting up more than it has for years: I wake up with tunes, rather than poems, running through my head these days.
Words alone can be powerful; but for me, the right music behind them turbo-charges the emotional impact. A three-chord progression on a Telecaster tends to reach parts of me most poetry never will. What this show’s about, then, is blending my wordy and (ahem) musical selves. A duality of creativity, if you will.
If that sounds all a bit intense, don’t worry – this ain’t no misery memoir. There will be bits of the show that are meant to be moving. But it’s also meant to be funny. Then the second half Kelly and the boys come on to back me, and we aim to knock you right out of your socks.
If you’re ever heard anything of mine at a show and liked it, please come. If I’ve ever done you anything remotely resembling a favour, consider it called in. You know performers need an audience to feed off, right? Honestly, honestly, I think this is my best work so far.