About an hour after last night's show had finished a drunken stupor of men wandered into the venue and proceeded to insist on me writing my autograph for them. I don't know if they really knew who I was or had just seen the poster on the wall but the one thing I can guarantee is that all of them were hammered. These very heterosexual men had me sign my autograph on their biceps, six packs and hairless chests. Most just wanted my name, some wanted personal messages and some bizarrely wanted me to sign it John Cougar Mellencamp. My friends found it confronting but I found it strangely hilarious and quite a surreal end to the night. Tracey Cosgrove had driven me to Launceston that day and preparation for the second ever performance of "Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994" was quite different to the previous day. I was relatively pleased with how the first show had gone down and there were a few goals in mind for this night. First of all I wanted to keep the lessons I learned from that initial performance. I ad libbed a couple of stories and found some interesting ways into a few of the stories that I wanted to keep. I also was pretty happy with the pacing of the show and I definitely wanted to maintain that aspect as well.
What I didn't want to do was try to replicate the previous night's performance. I wanted to come at it as open as possible to see if there would be some new ideas emerge. The show is still in such an early stage it is important to still be open to new ideas. Whether those ideas stay in the show or not they do help inform the finished product. I had to also be open to making mistakes because sometimes these fumbles can help point out an inherent weakness in the show or maybe open up the possibility of new jokes. This is the most difficult aspect of performing for me and I find the best way to embrace this is to not go over my notes too much before the show. That way it is still loose in my head enough to allow improvisation to work but hopefully I'll know the structure enough I'll be able to get back on track if I lose my way.
So basically what I was attempting to do was to learn from the previous night but not attempt to replicate that performance. Clear as mud, right? Since it was the show and nothing but the show the set list was simple:
Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994
When you write a show you can often wonder if some of the signposts you place early in the piece are too obvious. Are you telling the audience too much rather than showing them the story? If you tell the story then people can sometimes work out the path you're leading them down. If you show them the story they'll hopefully be caught up in the narrative to such an extent that they'll be pleasantly surprised when certain reveals come their way. After two shows I feel that we (my director Declan Fay and I) have managed to keep a certain subtlety without being too vague. I've been really happy with the reactions of the audience and think we're heading in the right direction.
There are still some work that needs to be done though. There are certain routines where it is taking me two sentences to say what could be said in one sentence; some jokes have five words instead of three. This might sound pedantic but it is all about rhythm and a concise word count. You want to paint a picture that audiences can lock into but not bore them with an over abundance of words and explanation.
I think there are also a couple of routines that can still use some trimming. On the first night the show came in bang on 60 mins and last night it was 58 minutes. It might have been shorter than that but there were two drunk guys who came into the show late that stood at the bar and talked as if they were at a band night. For the most part I ignored them but on two occasions I had to divert from the show and deal with them. Normally this is the type of thing that would piss me off but last night I welcomed the distraction as it helped provide another challenge for the show. If I could keep the audience's attention and divert from the source material, deal with some annoying dudes in the crowd and return to the story without losing momentum then the show was in a good shape. Afterward the host and producer of the show Stewart Bell was horrified by these guys but he had nothing to worry about on my behalf. He runs a tight ship, is very professional and a class act to boot. As I said before I welcomed the challenge. It might be different when the festivals kick in but for now it was fine.
Now I'll sit down with Declan and go over the two shows, make some adjustments and prepare for the next performance. A big thank you to Tracey and Stewart for not only looking after me but also providing me with a very important opportunity to see where my new show is at this early in the year.
18th of January, 2014