Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sad, Sadder, Saddest

The Most Miserable Show in the Brighton Fringe and Embracing the Negative

Photo by Fred Chance

Last weekend I brought my one-man show “Graveside Manner” to the Brighton Fringe for the first time. (Two more performances follow next weekend, 30th and 31st May).  The show features Miserable Malcolm, the most miserable poet in Stroud reading his despairing poems.
Here’s a brief account of the experience, with some occasional thoughts about what I’m doing with this miserable character and why it seems to be working.
I arrived in Brighton on Friday after a very delayed train journey from Stroud. Since Miserable Malcolm’s main problem is not moving on from his relationship with Mavis (pictured above), this seemed entirely fitting: the train also refused to  move on from the less than picturesque purlieus of Swindon for an hour and a half.
Arriving in Brighton, I found some excellent coverage of “Graveside Manner” in the Brighton Argus. 
My telephone conversation with Entertainment Reporter Duncan Hall had resulted in my giving the following rather grand quote:
‘“There is something bracing about misery. There is so much false optimism around at the moment people like to have an hour to wallow.”’
(I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.  So much false optimism ...”)
(The full text of the article is online here.)
On Friday evening and on Saturday I had the opportunity to perform some twenty-minute tasters of the show at The Tinkerbox, a horsebox that has been turned into a venue and gallery by Amy Douglas and which is located just behind the Brighton Spiegeltent. 
Photo by Amy Douglas
One of the pleasures of performing as Miserable Malcolm is approaching complete strangers who are enjoying themselves, perhaps sitting in the evening sunshine and drinking beer, and drawing them into my world of exquisite misery.  This approach worked well at The Spiegeltent, where there were large numbers of people down for the Great Escape music festival, none of whom were intent on poetry or unhappiness, and yet some nonetheless drifted over to the Tinkerbox and listened to my performance, and no doubt felt all the worse for it.
Over the weekend (which also involved some unsmiling flyering at Fringe City while holding a placard proclaiming “Misery!”) I was:

  •          asked to be a celebrant at a potential wedding
  •          included in a selfie by a depressed Villa fan, whose team had just lost 6-1
  •          and filmed on Super 8 camera
(Miserable Malcolm is very partial to technology from the past because, after all, the past is the best place he knows ...)
All of which suggests a previously unsuspected array of potential employments for Malcolm.
On Sunday evening, I performed the full show of “Graveside Manner” in The Pit at Otherplace at the Basement to a mixed audience of adults and appalled children. Many thanks to all that came.   
Miserable Malcolm presented his usual array of poems about wishing he was dead and complaints about his ex-girlfriend Mavis, leavened with some items about his support group, Melancholics Anonymous, and the fun and games they get up to.
For an hour devoted to misery it felt like it went very briskly, and once again I was confronted afterwards by the puzzle of an audience coming away saying how cheerful they felt.

If you don’t believe me, here’s some feedback gleaned from social media:
“ It's dry, funny, witty, weird but most of all really, really good...”
“very good and leaves you feeling bizarrely upbeat!”
“excellent and strangely uplifting ...”
Thanks also to Rebecca for coming on stage and putting up a physical struggle in the face of Malcolm’s overwhelming ambivalence.
I remain slightly mystified by the warm response my alter-ego elicits when retailing his miseries and disappointments in life. I can only hope it will continue. There are two more performances of Graveside Manner at OtherPlace next weekend (30th and 31st May at 12.30).  There are more details here.  Please don’t let the earliness of the hour put you off: it’ll be a perfect accompaniment to a hangover, with the gentle caress of shadows and a little light sobbing.
 I’ll end with another grandiose claim I made in the Brighton Argus article, in the hope it might shed some darkness on the matter of Malcolm:
‘“In these difficult times we have this absurd culture of happiness,” says Jones. “People are embarrassed to admit that they’re down and depressed about things.  This is doing something counter to that.  You have got to embrace the negative sometimes.”’

This week, I’ve been back in Stroud and back in a friend’s shed where I’ve been rehearsing, and where I found this message waiting for me:

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Miserable Malcolm, The Brighton Fringe and a few stops on the way ....

Miserable Malcolm has finally got himself up off the floor after the success of Miserable Poets’ Cafe on 23rd April (many thanks to all who came and read their sorrowing stanzas)

and after coming joint second at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Breaking Bard Slam (picture on twitter here).

He will be performing his show “Graveside Manner” at the Brighton Fringe on Sunday 17th May (6.30pm) and Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May (both at 12.30pm) at Otherplace at the Basement, 24 Kensington Street, Brighton BN1 4AJ.
And where in the premises of Otherplace in the Basement will he be performing his show of despair? 
Why, in THE PIT, of course!
Tickets for all three performances can be booked here: 
(Miserable Malcolm will also be making a few short and gloomy appearances at the Tinkerbox, a glamorous horsebox parked round the back of the Spiegeltent on the Fridays and Saturdays of those weekends, between 6 and 8pm.)

But, before all that, Miserable Malcolm will be performing his show one more time in Stroud, in a double-bill of Brighton Fringe-bound shows with the marvellous Jonny Fluffypunk in his one-man show “Man Up, Jonny Fluffypunk”.
The Stroud double-bill is at Black Book Cafe, 2 Nelson Street, Stroud, on Tuesday 12th May.  The first show starts at 8pm prompt, and tickets are a mere five pounds.

And in the even nearer future, I will be reading my short story “The Vampires in the Basement” at the launch of the Stroud Short Stories Anthology (a highly-recommended tome comprising around 98% of the stories from the nine events).  This will be taking place in the Ale House on John Street in Stroud, starting at on Friday 8th May. More details here:
And, finally, in the further future Miserable Malcolm will be taking “Graveside Manner” to the Barnstaple Fringe Theatre Festival (25th-28th June) but that is another story for another gloomy day ...