I arrive in the morning at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith with my guitar and trumpet, not having a clue what I’m about to be taking part in but it’s something like…a workshop for a week for nabokov who want to do something about storytelling and folklore and music. To someone who doesn’t know any of the people they’re about to meet and comes armed only with the above information this could potentially be a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons and as I journey in I begin to have excruciating thoughts about the day as it could unfold.; “OK everyone thanks for coming, now what we like to do on the first day is pretend we’re tree elves who make fruity yoghurts so if we could all take our clothes off….”
This however was not the case. (In fact, as I write, I remember that I was the only person on the first day, who offered to go naked but having seen the utter lack of interest on the faces of the others I surmised this was not a winning suggestion and relented.)
Instead I found myself sitting around a table with a group of lovely people, interested and interesting, who have all been brought in to offer something different to whatever “thing” we might have to offer by the end of the week. There’s Joe and Paul, the director and producer from nabokov. There’s Rachel who is a storyteller/poet and - though she doesn’t say - a pretty fine singer. There’s Rowan, aka Dizraeli, a rap artist whose words and rhythms are influenced a great deal by folk. There’s Sophia who has written and researched a number of books relating to folklore and a couple are on the table - impressive for their size and the reviews on the back! And then there’s me (Ben), Harry, Remy and Josie, all of us describing ourselves as actor/musicians or something similar and who’s gonna argue given the small arsenal of instruments we’ve each brought with us?
I won’t detail the days events but the sessions went something like this:-
1) A little jamming led by Harry and his beautiful cello (plus FX box!)
2) Once everyone had convened - late arrivals due to US Embassy visits, family shenanigans and bad Bristol busses - we chatted around the subject of fairytales, folklore, meanings and memories, films and theatre, modern versus old, pitfalls and pratfalls and…..LOADS
3) Lunch (lovely noodle soup from the Vietnamese market stall outside the theatre.) then another jamming session with all of us putting in a bit so we’ve got glockenspiel, guitar, cello, accordion, a chorus of voices and a bin as a drum.
4) In a circle, now, to do a sort of “Rap Class” led by the mighty Rowan where we all set up a beat then a line of ‘stream of conscious‘ verse would be thrown out by one of us and then the next person in line would have to follow - on the beat - with their own attempt at a rhyme. It might sound simple and it should be but….!(“Cipher” is the word used in the world of Rap for such a group, Rowan tells me. Why? Because a cipher is a zero in it’s original meaning ie a circle. Everyday’s a school day)
5) By the end of the day I’m exhausted, my head is full as an egg, I’ve laughed and been laughed at (chiefly the latter) , riffed and rapped about everything - yes, EVERYTHING - from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Bruce Lee’s 1-inch punch. I’ve been taken outside my comfort zone and then I’ve taken the scenic route back and it’s good to be reminded that’s often the best way to travel.
Can’t wait to see where we get to by Friday.