Sunday 24 May 2015

The Most Miserable Show in the Brighton Fringe

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 poems about death and despair.
Here’s a brief account of the experience.
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 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.  Thank you to Duncan Hall at the Argus. 
Here's a quote:
“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.”’
(The full text of the article is online here.)
On Friday evening and on Saturday I performed 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 with a placard saying “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 by the puzzle of an audience coming away saying how cheerful they felt.
If you're not sure you 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 a little mystified by the warm response my alter-ego elicits when retailing his miseries and disappointments in life but 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) and 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.

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