Hear me bear my teenage soul. Recorded live at The George, Strand, Wednesday 27 March for CRINGE, a monthly therapy sesh, erm, forum for the willing to read their teenage diaries.
I stumbled upon this whole CRINGE thing via the radio and on d’internets but hadn’t considered contributing until recently. I’ve kept a diary since I was able to write. Granted there’s a whole lot of crap in there - pages of various handwriting styles, crappy doodles…. lists. Diaries are not for everyone, maybe they’re for people who are inclined to write, right? WELL DONE, Twat Head, “what do you fink?!”
After my first CRINGE experience, I’m starting to believe that us readers are a privileged few - lucky to have these mini time capsules that transport us back to days when our priorities were so, so different and emotions were fraught. But even non-diarists can take a lot from these readings - highlighting the universality of the whole teenage experience. I find it interesting the myriad of decade-specific cultural references; fashion, linguistic details (dodgy graffiti-like notes in foolscap notebooks like ‘I woz ere WLT SVS’).
The March CRINGE night had readings from the late 60s up to as recent as 2004. Mine was 2000, god, it does not seem like long ago. I would love to hear even earlier ones. I know my grandmother (and former piano teacher), Dympna Cotter, has kept brilliant notes about her upbringing. With help from the family, she got it typed up nicely with photographs, then laminated and ring-bound. I think about six copies exist. Think of the historical significance of it, not just for the Cotter clan but, of diaries in general. I listened to an old Desert Island Discs episode featuring Kenneth Williams, broadcast 1987 and presented by Michael Parkinson, apparently his diaries are a brilliant read* (more a note to self than anything else but do check it out).
I absolutely adore listening to people talk about their lives, at any age, but the teenage years have a particular comedy factor - you can feel the bloody awkwardness in how we expressed ourselves then - and we all know how comedy loves frailties. I see similarities in teenage expression and my 26 year-old expression, only the emotions and taste are not switched ‘up to 11’ anymore. As adults-in-training (what I consider myself to be), we conform to function in society - we all do to some extent. You can be as rebellious as you damn well like but you still won’t (hopefully) cough phlegm on a fellow commuter’s face or, not wash for 3 weeks or, perform an act of self-love in the bank (wanking while banking, geddit?).
No-one encouraged me to write, and no-one discouraged me to write. I wrote everything, I still do. It’s like I miss the filter between the thought process and ‘do’ process. Do you ever wonder when you started to do something you’ve been doing forever? It’s like, I was born, ready to diary the fuck out of my life. I, not caring about seemingly irrelevant info like what I ate for dinner - which, have actually ended up being details that spark more memories.
As a musician/performer I am accustomed to audiences. On rare occasion I have enjoyed attentive, mannerly, respectful audiences. These are almost exclusively seated concert scenarios or ‘solo’ part of a traditional Irish music session. Other than that, we are forewarned (and therefore forearmed) to deal with this whole reality of fighting for airtime. It sometimes feels like its not good enough that you have spent time honing your act, to entertain them, to better yourself as an artist. You are bearing your soul, but yes, it’s music or whatever, and that can be a bit more abstract than reading a passage directly from arguably the toughest period of your young life…. So justifiably, the audience at The George although full to the rafters are THE most amazing crowd to stand up in front of. Personally, I’ve rarely experienced this level of attentiveness, where everyone’s ears and eyes are focused on you. Next time I’m going to take a picture. It’s that good.
Unlike stand-up comedy, art, fashion, literature or theatre, the crowd are not there to criticise or take the mickey. It’s like a massive room-in-the-shape-of-the-upstairs-part-of-The George-shaped womb. Yes. WOMB, I said. You feel all warm and safe. The crowd’s laugh-track is not entirely in synch - you can hear some great laughs trailing off for longer - what resonated with them? Why did they laugh for so long? Everyone talks. I’ve often gone to open mics where audiences consist mainly of after-drink office-y types, who frankly have no interest in what you’re doing on stage (and why should they? They’re there for the jug of pre-mix cocktail for £10). Mix this audience type (if they even DESERVE to be called that..) with loner, cold, or competitive open mic performers and you’ve got a recipe for a largely unsatisfying performance experience. Conversation is the greatest sauce, or eh, seasoning for CRINGE.
In short, don’t be held back by shyness or fear of embarrassment - that was then and this is now, why should you ever be ashamed of who you are? - unless you’ve done something really terrible. I haven’t done anything really terrible in my life, yet. Murder, terrorism, scam-free me. If you are murder, terrorism, scam-free then CRINGE is right up your strasse. Next one is in May, follow CRINGE on Twitter for all the latest.