When not to do a show in Belgium
...and when to do a show in Holland
Before we get started: Georgia Tennant has entered the building.
Or rather the dream.
For those following the seventeen-year soap opera of my dreams about David Tennant, I can report that, while as recently as my penultimate dream, David Tennant was unmarried (despite having two girlfriends, neither of whom was me), as of my last dream, he and his real-life wife Georgia are now happily hitched and raising their five children - time flies - while I pop round for Sunday lunch, help out with the kids (“Aunt Marie”), and mock David Tennant’s indescribably stupid hat.
Meanwhile, in my actual life, I’m approaching the end of my third month of fun with Covid.
As I started this newsletter as a Covid blog it feels like something that I should share with you, but at the same time, I’m well aware that I’m late to the Covid party and you probably already know everything about it that you need to or want to or really wish you didn’t. So I will only take this opportunity to impart the advice you need to hear: if you haven’t had Covid yet, and you are unfortunate enough to catch it, or catch it again, do not do a storytelling show in Belgium.
Sadly an accident of timing meant that when I caught Covid at the beginning of March, I was in Antwerp preparing a storytelling show, Lalaei, with a band of Belgian musicians. I didn’t test positive for the first four days I was sick, so I kept dragging myself into the studio, despite sounding like, as one of my bandmates put it, Tom Waits’ little sister. By the time I got that second lateral flow line it was the weekend, so I had those days off, and then I stayed in bed on the Monday, and then on Tuesday it was legal for me to leave isolation so I went back into work for another intensive week of rehearsals and then a week-long tour of Belgium, and, look: do not do this. I don’t know how to make that more clear.
(As an aside, and given the perfect timing of the whole debacle, this was perhaps inevitable: the hotel where I was staying chose that Monday to cut off the water supply because they were doing works. Now, at this stage of my Covid journey, as some of you may also have been, I was afflicted with an unbearable and unquenchable thirst, so on the Sunday night I had to fill and line up every bottle and glass I could find next to my bed so that I didn’t parch to death. Alas, that much drinking has consequences. These consequences are predictable, so I also filled the bathtub so that I could flush the loo, but the bathroom was on the mezzanine floor next to where my bed was, but the loo was on the ground floor next to the front door - because nobody ever needs to pee in the middle of the night, but lots of people suddenly require a midnight bath - well, anyway, every time I needed to flush the loo I had to fill a bucket from the bathtub and carry it down the stairs, and I’m just going to remind you that I had Covid at the time, and now we go back to the stuff about not doing a storytelling show in Belgium.)
There’s all kinds of reasons that doing a storytelling show in Belgium is incompatible with having Covid, but I would say that the main one is that doing a storytelling show in Belgium involves breathing, and Covid - the way that I had it, anyway - does not. Though actually the show, when I did manage to get enough air through my lungs to tell the story out loud, was really good - I can say that because 50pc of it was songs that I had nothing to do with, performed by the excellent group Zwerm, singer Sarah Akbari and percussionist Karen Willems. And the other 50pc of it, the part that I wrote and performed, I am incredibly proud of: it is a reworking of the story of Procne, Philomela and Tereus, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a #metoo story from ancient times that goes to some very dark places and connects to some very painful moments in my own life. But it was a privilege to share it and I was particularly moved by the stories that many of the women in the audience came to tell me after the show. We got some lovely reviews, which you can read if you are fluent in Dutch or have access to Google Translate.
Still, it was emotionally demanding as well as physically demanding, so after all that it’s no surprise that my Covid lingered for several weeks, and then, just when I thought that I had finally emerged from the listlessness and fatigue and started living my life again, I got a cold - just a boring, average, not even particularly bad cold - and got busted right back down to zero. But I have learned from my mistake and I am not going to do a storytelling show in Belgium.
I am going to do a storytelling show in Holland.
Yes yes I know, but it’s not the same, partly because the show is in July and I will be better by then - the very fact that I’m writing this proves to me that I am on the mend - and partly because I have enlisted no fewer than six additional fellow storytellers to share the speaking out loud and breathing that is required for such an event.
The show is based on The Odyssey and will be staged in the grounds of de Ceuvel, which is a compound of eco-buildings, start ups and cultural space in the north of Amsterdam. Back when I lived in Amsterdam I was a regular at the cafe on the site, but it wasn't until I ran a storytelling workshop there in 2019 that I fully explored the grounds and discovered the "boats" area: a wonderland of repurposed houseboats linked by a curving wooden walkway, overlooking the water.
I'd been looking for somewhere to stage a site-specific storytelling show for a while, and the moment I walked down that path I knew it was the perfect place for to tell a version of The Odyssey. The walkway bends and curves amongst the boats, which the audience will follow along in small groups. At each turn they will meet a storyteller who'll share with them her part of Homer's tale. Yes - her part: the cast is all-female, and we’ll be telling the story from the point of view of the goddesses, sorceresses, she-monsters and queens that Odysseus meets on his journey.
If this sounds of interest to you, you can find out more and buy tickets here. The show runs from July 15th to 17th, with timed entry from 7.30pm every evening, plus a matinee with a 2.30pm start on the Saturday.
Meanwhile we’ll be back with Lalaei in 2023, when I probably almost definitely will possibly maybe not have Covid again.