It is an extraordinary and magical experience to hear just one of your poems performed by someone as if it were their own. Not, of course, as in plagiarism, but in the sense that any good singer will take complete possession of any song. When a song comes truly alive, for its duration, the composer is really no longer of account.
Twice now ‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’ has become the property of wonderful performers. Cerys Matthews chose it for the finale of her With Great Pleasure programme in St Georges, Brandon Hill. And East Anglian singer songwriter Miranda Pender composed a marvellously expressive arrangement which she premiered at the Royston Jazz Club in October 2015 when I was lucky enough to be in the audience. Miranda is a witty and utterly compelling performer whose own pieces on her CD Petrol Station Flowers are a delight. My poem was very privileged to have made its way into her set.
Report from the Judenplatz
was extremely fortunate to be chosen for the 2014 Torbay Festival of Poetry, where it was given a full dramatic reading with a cast of excellent readers imaginatively directed by John Miles. John won’t mind my saying that his directorial scope was slightly constrained by the circumstance of having to work without any theatrical resources not very long after breakfast in the Livermead Hotel seaview lounge. John Miles is such a skilled director that we all forgot our surroundings for the duration of the play. But how he and his talented cast would have loved the opportunities offered by Taunton’s fabulous Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre where another company of west country actors performed Report from the Judenplatz as part of the Page to Performance Evening on Thursday night.
The production was a directorless collaboration between nine actors who were all experienced performers. They worked together on stage so naturally that the words of the Nine Lamentations seemed to flow from them spontaneously, as if being imagined and spoken aloud for the first time. They seemed not just to inhabit the play, but to be creating it in front of our eyes.
The theatre space was cavernous, near black, with the focus of the lighting on the set of stark white blocks which the actors used to create in turn the ark, the Schönbrunn belvedere, the restaurants in the Rome ghotto, the Rachael Whiteread Holocaust Memorial in Vienna and lastly the boat of forgetting on the River Styx. From the opening scene with its haunting unaccompanied song to the final whispers
Who will remember us?
Who will write our song?
the energy of the performance never faltered, nor the mesmerising way the actors’ mastery of the stage space kept this production right on the edge of dance.
I have asked the cast to send me their professional biographies and reflections on the play so that I can start build a collective account of this magical event for the revised edition of the book. ( Report from the Judenplatz is still available on Amazon for the time being, but all my author’s copies have now been sold.) In the meantime, enormous thanks to the Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre for making this production possible, to Louise the Centre Director for her inspiring presence throughout the evening and to Graeme Ryan for believing in my play and knowing how to start the alchemical process to take it so amazingly from Page to Stage..