Excited about tomorrow’s George Barker centenary reading I may be, but that’s only a poetry thrill. The reading I’m doing tonight, for Poems and Pints at the Queen’s Hotel in Carmarthen, combines the simple pleasures of reading poetry aloud with that infinitely more complex and addictive thrill, nostalgia.
Carmarthen is the town that housed me as a somewhat shambolic student for two years a shockingly long time ago – back when The Stone Roses seemed thrillingly new, not comfortable as an old shoe you can’t quite bring yourself to throw out and contaminated by the legacy of Liam Gallagher.
I haven’t been back since, and only seen a few of the friends I made there intermittently in the intervening years. It doesn’t help that I left the place without ever completing a degree (in hindsight, I should have taken time out between school and college and worked).
That aside, Trinity College Carmarthen was a good place to spend time, and it was the people I met, staff and students, who made it so. I read a great deal, studied a great deal (though not necessarily what I was supposed to be studying), and began to take my own writing really seriously there. I also furthered my interest in acting, and performance.
One of the fondest in-college memories I have is of performing as Christy Mahon in the college production of J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. Playing my inconveniently alive father in that was the academic and poetry anthologist Patrick Crotty, then a senior lecturer at the college.
I was a little young and gauche to carry the lead role, but I had a wonderful time attempting to. That inexperience lead to my first bad review, however. The local paper praised the play as a whole, but found time to pick up on my inexperience and my rather erratic Irish accent (which must have been poor next to Crotty’s, not to mention Marie-Louise Kelly’s (she was playing Pegeen Mike and came from Northern Ireland)). My nice RP accent, copied from my RADA trained mother, must have slipped through, however much I tried to imitate Patrick’s voice.
So when I read at Poems and Pints at the Queens in Carmarthen tonight, I will not be attempting an Irish accent.
The other play I appeared in at the college was Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine, which very nearly got cancelled after some excessively delicate visitors were shown around the drama studio by the college Principal in the midst of a rehearsal of a particularly explicit section of the play.
Anyone of a delicate constitution planning to attend the reading tonight, be warned… *
*if you enjoyed When Harry Met Sally you should be alright. And it’s only one poem…