[fol-ee] Show IPA
noun, plural fol·lies for 2–6.
1. the state or quality of being foolish; lack of understanding or sense.
2. a foolish action, practice, idea, etc.; absurdity: the folly of performing without a rehearsal.
3. a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure.
4. Architecture . a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century.
5. follies, a theatrical revue.
I wrote a show last year. It was a curious thing to do. We did a debut at The Cube in Bristol at the end of December, as a double bill with Alabaster DePlume’s Copernicus Ensemble. This is why we made the thing in the first place. I think.
I came back from Asia with a bemused sense of what ON EARTH people are doing with themselves all over the world, a tender (but no longer broken) heart, an ardent desire to try something new and a notebook full of poems.
Then I was at work one day (I work in a bar), and my friend Nuala Honan came in to see me and we were talking, amongst other things, about how she is interested in soundtracks and film music and composing. She is an amazing guitarist. You don’t always notice when you watch her perform, because she’s got this voice that makes you feel like the bottom of your spine in melting and your toes are dipped in honey, and it’s kind of inveigling, but she is also a kick-ass musician and composer. Anyway, we were talking about soundtracks and scores, and I said ‘Well I’ve written these poems, and I think I want to make a thing out of them, do you fancy trying to write some music to go with it’, and she said ‘Yes’, just like that.
The first time we had a go at writing together, we had to get SO DRUNK because we were so nervous. We didn’t know what we were doing or why. We drank can and cans of Guinness and I had all these scrappy bits of paper and Nuala played things, and it was scary but we REALLY LIKED IT. Then the weather got nicer and we sat outside and practiced and wrote things and talked about family and home and being away from home and boys and friends and our silly hearts, and then it was A REAL THING. I had never really written something with someone else before, it’s not something you get loads of opportunity to do as a poet, and the thing that was most brilliant is that although Nuala was writing the music and I was writing the words, we got to understand what each other was doing so well that she would help to edit things I had written as we were going along. It is a wonderful feeling to know that someone understands what it is you are trying to say and why, and trusting them completely in the development of that thing.
The show is about leaving, ostensibly. Being away from home, trying to escape your responsibilities, trying to work out what your responsibilities are and what is important. I’m going to be honest, because what’s the point in not being. I had a beautiful and funny a lovely little brother who died, very suddenly, when he was 17 and I was 18. I had just moved away from home for the first time. Obviously this was a life-changing event. It’s probably the single most affecting thing that has ever happened to me. In terms of writing, and travelling and in reference this piece (Folly), it made home, the concept of ‘Home’, an almost infinitely complicated and many splendored thing to regard. The place where I grew up suddenly carried simultaneously the most treasured and terrifying thing, full of tender and happy and devastating memories. I missed home, I wanted to go home. It was also too sad being at home, and I wanted to keep moving and growing and trying to live a different life, now this loss had happened. I feel a responsibility to live my life fully and sincerely and to be bold, because there is nothing to be learned from losing your little brother apart from being determined not to waste your own life. Also, I felt guilty and scared of something else cataclysmic happening and I just wanted to go home and stay with my family all day and all night and try to stop anything else bad from happening. But to be honest, bereavement or not, I think Home hold these kinds of connotations for a lot of us. Then, in the few years before I went travelling on this occasion (when I wrote a lot of the work in Folly), I had some experiences which threw some fresh instability over the idea of home and being safe, and also very surely and firmly broke my heart. I had that feeling that people talk about, the one where you absolutely have to Get the Fuck out of Town. So, I found myself on the other side of the world. Bemused, homesick, excited, confused, feeling like a complete dickhead and pared down to my bones with longing, with loads of empty notebooks.
It is also about the 21st century phenomenon of TRAVEL, how we GO TRAVELLING, in all our different ways. Camping in Scotland or driving through America or a train to Brighton or three months in Asia. We can go where ever we want, and we do, but there’s a lot of this feeling of running away from something or (that thing that people say) going to FIND yourself. I love adventures and I always will, but I sometimes can’t help feeling that I’m doing it wrong. Everyone else is having a wonderful, carefree time and I am still the wibbly, anxious ball of doom that I was back in England. And sometimes people are strange. A wonderful person said to me that sometimes, when she was travelling through Australia, she felt like she was in a giant Wetherspoons with everyone she hated from school. Similarly, I have found myself so drunk that I can barely focus, in a bar in Laos, being chatted up by a sleazy off-duty squaddie, heart aching for a lost soul mate 8000 miles away, suddenly wondering what on earth I am doing with my life.
But then of course to balance that out, there’s the days when you jump on a bus and you’ve only got one bag to your name, and you stop in the middle of nowhere and buy weird amazing fizzy drinks from one old man in a hut, and look over the edge of the road and the mountains are so vast they make you feel like you’re coming up on something, and you squeeze your mate’s hand and you are SO GLAD.
Anyway, it’s a peculiar thing and I wanted to write about it.
The show forms a sort of narrative, tells a generic ‘travel’ story while also mulling over and muddling all the feelings that’s go along with it. There’s bits that we thought were really funny, but I wasn’t sure if anyone else would. Thankfully, when we ran it at The Cube in December, people were laughing along with us. It’s got a musical score because, well, why not? Films have scores and soundtracks, so do documentaries and adverts and sometimes plays and I wanted to try something new. I live in this community of ALL kinds of amazing artists- musicians and writers and photographers and chefs and performers and acrobats and people with brains so full of ideas that you want to climb in and have a poke around- but there’s not enough cross pollination for my liking. Not all multi-media art is going to be successful, obviously, you can’t just fudge two things together and hope for the best. But there’s infinite potential, and I just wanted to see if we could make a new thing.
I’ve been thinking about all this gubbins a lot because of writing funding applications (we want to take the show on tour) so I just thought I’d write it all down in one place, not least because this is MY website and Folly was the BIGGEST THING in my little life at the end of the year.
Here’s a photo of me and my troubadour having a cuddle at the end of the show. It was basically what would happen if the film ‘Dead Man’ had been written by a grumpy Yorkshire poet and a grumpy Australian musician. With a toy aeroplane and loads of beer.
Photo by Tilly May http://www.tilly-may.com