Night on Earth

I’ve just rewatched Night on Earth. What a fabulous film. What a great vehicle for storytelling. I love the way things link. A friend happened to mention the film and I put it on my LoveFilm list thinking it would take months to arrive. You have no way of knowing which will come first cos even if you give it high priority it might be everyone else’s too. So I was pleasantly suprised when it arrived. And after watching it I thought, oh yes, I’m going to be poet-in-residence in CabCo at Canterbury during the Canterbury Festival. And this is sooooo relevant. What would cabbies make of it?

What always grabbed me about the film was it’s concept. Whoever came up with the idea of five simultaneous cab journey’s  in five different countries was a genius. But what a genius to go through with it. It’s one thing having an idea: quite another to make it happen. How on earth would you do the casting in all those different languages? But the acting was supreme and even the trailer shows you don’t have to speak the language to get the vibe. The best scenes are the french, the italian, the icelandic rather than the US ones where you don’t need the subtitles. So at the moment I’m trying to come up with a concept to frame five cab stories from my forthcoming residency. Five seems a nice, manageable number. Also, I need some new tales for Roving Mic. Chaucer had thirty pilgrims and only wrote twenty-three tales. So I have to find seven new ones, and some of them may well come from the cab residency.

Performed at the Whitstable Oyster Festival the other week and was told about a gang murder that took place in Canterbury which was quite gorey and included the detail of a Chinese meal being delivered. I was told that this was likely to come up as a cabbie story. So it’ll be interesting to see if it does. Can’t find anything online about it. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking through Canterbury newspapers to get local stories as ideas for poems. So far, nothing leaps out at me but John Prebble’s sending this week’s so watch this space for ideas.

On a different note, am brainstorming the Miller’s Tale, The Kiss. I’m torn between doing something classical, something  ballad-like, and something stand-up. Three men walk into a pub… I made the Knight’s Tale less formal in tone so could get away with making the Miller’s more so. But it must be a contrast to the first tale which is long and technically formal. Also need to work out the character (talking of which, haven’t yet got a biog for Queen of the Castle. Want to write draft today I can tweek on Monday and post. Will post each section of the Knight’s Tale Monday to Friday next week). But what would be the modern day equivalent of the Miller? I’ll definitely make the Reeve, the Carpenter since Chaucer’s Reeve was a carpenter by trade. Would also be nice to have the cuckold in the Miller’s tale be a carpenter. Miller could be a pub landlord since he’s a drunkard. Not that I’m typecasting. Would work with the three men walk into a pub scenario. Need to revisit  plot and work out what to do.

Funny, I’ve read the Miller’s Tale several times but never with the view to change it. It’s challenging taking something so perfect in itself and doing something new with it. Easier to rework when something niggles you about the original or you feel it’s dying to be ‘translated’ as in the Wife of Bafa. It all takes time. And it took Chaucer much more time than I’ve set myself so I’ve decided not to panic about my two year deadline, to keep working steadily and to enjoy the process. Stress and creativity don’t mix. There has to be a sense of importance rather than urgency to the project. I love the idea that we must always filter what’s important from what’s urgent. When I’m not enjoying my work it’s because everything’s ‘urgent’ and I’m being reactive rather than proactive. I need to remain proactive. This project is important. Much more important than urgent.


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