After a sold out run at Pope’s Grotto and Twickenham Library, Alexander Pope: A Search For Perfection is back! I will be performing the show at The Old Sorting Office in Barnes on 13th October – tickets are now on sale here.
Pope is a poet I avoided at Uni because his idea of poetry is so different to ours now – despite my father being a fan! Creating this show was intense and I’m so glad I did because he is truly inspirational. Imagine, a chronically and critically disabled man, an outsider to English society (he was Catholic) whose formal education stopped at 12 who nonetheless managed by sheer brilliance to make himself central to English cultural and intellectual life, a midget who remains a giant of English Literature?! It’s all true – come and hear his extraordinary story.
Here’s a little preview to get you in the mood…
1. Alexander Pope: A Search For Perfection clip - Giles Abbott
But if you can’t make 13th October I’ll be back with the show next year at the National Portrait Gallery on 18th May and at the Twickenham Festival in June. For ticket details and further dates keep an eye out on Facebook, Twitter and of course, this blog (and if you’ve not subscribed there’s a handy box for that…).
Hope to see you there!
Tickets are now on sale for another gig I’m very excited about! At 7pm, on Thursday 11th August I shall be in the National Portrait Gallery on St Martins Lane as part of their Late Shift programme. I performed Tongues Of Flame for them last year and it’s such a fantastic place to tell stories! While I work with the words, all around me the portraits of the great and lofty dead look on patiently. And they are such good listeners… To book tickets visit here.
On this occasion I’ll be telling the story of possibly the greatest Englishman you’ve never heard about – Allan Octavian Hume. A.O Hume – The Unseen Force is the story of a man who, when still young, began his career as a Civil Servant working in India for the Raj. He was tasked with extracting maximum profit for the British Empire from India. But Hume was altogether too good a man to simply do that. He fell in love with India and Indian culture and began to work hard for the interests of Victoria’s Indian subjects. He was not doing this for show, indeed, he had to be discrete, because he began to work directly against the interests of Queen and country. Hume had to be an unseen force. He was, and spectacularly so; he helped change both British and Indian history.
I will be aided in my telling by Nafees Ihrfan, a tabla virtuoso. You will hear him play, but you won’t be able to see his fingers move! I’m really excited about this – I love tabla and it’s going to add so much to the story. For a little taster of his work you can listen here.
We will be performing in Room 20, which is filled with portraits of people connected to British rule in India. But where is A O Hume’s portrait? Ah, come along and I’ll tell you.
Story is a great way of sharing history, and his story is great enough to share – do come! You can hear the beginning of an earlier version of this story, commissioned by the South London Botanical Institute, which Hume founded in his retirement in Norwood, and recorded at Resonance FM, below.
So, the first week of March and I travelled down to Bath to stay with my friend Harry. Next day, Wednesday, I worked in a school in Bristol, running Poetry workshops for KS2 children. Wonderful fun. I used a structure-based approach similar to the work I do with StoryMaking, and the staff were amazed at how the right level of limitation liberated the children’s imagination. After my first class there was a break and, as she entered the staff room, my class’s teacher smiled broadly at a colleague.
“If only all learning could be like that!” she said.
And I sincerely believe that more of it can. The children created complex poems in which an everyday object tells their own story. Some poems were riddles and you had to guess what the object was, and some were metaphorically very rich. Everyone wrote something and now the staff will take these beginnings on further. Proper job satisfaction for me.
On Thursday, Harry and I did our best to destroy the best that Bath had to offer in the matter of ales and pies (very good at The Griffin). I saw a moving play at Bristol Old Vic called Pink Mist. Actually, it was very storytellery as all the characters narrated the story straight to the audience. There was no set and minimal props and actors created scenes with movement and posture. I’ve got so much to learn there. I happened to be seated amongst a clump of 6th Formers, A Level drama students. Kid next to me was all scorn at the end of first act, so above it all, telling everyone how he’d worked out the impending twist in Act 2. He had and he hadn’t. As Act 2 progressed, I noticed him stop fidgeting, start leaning forward listening intently. At the end he spun to his friends;
“Excellent!!!” he said.
He’d dropped into the story. So much better than being above it.
On Friday I worked in a different Bristol school and, at day’s end, boarded a train not to home, but to Manchester. Word Of Mouth Storytelling Club was celebrating its 21st Birthday. I cut my teeth there 17 years ago. I wasn’t going to miss their birthday for the world…