Friday, 24 February 2012
I went to Deptford, to the Albany Theatre yesterday to see Nick Makoha's show My Father and Other Superheroes, which was rather terrific, meaning, in particular, that Nick was. It's a one-man show written and performed by Nick, talking about his childhood and in particular his relationship with his father, and through his father the relationship between sons and fathers generally, which is, he suggests, one of disappointment, longing and hero worship. I had worked as Nick's mentor over a year or so, helping him put together a volume of poetry. This wasn't the same thing but a project he had been preparing over the same period, so I had seen parts of text at different times and in different state but never saw it performed. That was why I came.
I liked the text I heard, though it was the performance that made the immediate impression. It was beautifully directed in terms of contrast and movement, so that the stage was constantly alive with possibility while the whole remained coherent as a narrative so that no movement was wasted. Nick's voice control was excellent too. This is more a recommendation than a review, if only because it's late and I'm tired, too tired even to think. It has been a week of long journeys - Bangor Monday and Tuesday then Deptford on Thursday, in and out of university in between, with some long telephone conversations and decisions to make.
I had studied at Goldsmiths for a year in 1972/3, and we lived just off New Cross station, C and I, in a two room flat in Rokeby Road which probably wasn't Deptford but might have been Brockley or New Cross or even Lewisham, Deptford being over the other side of the main road, somewhat run down and edgy. Rokeby Road was the hinterland between desolate and decorous. The desolate was nearer our end, the decorous nearer the bottom end where we hardly ever walked.
I had no idea what Deptford would be like now. It's a descent down two steep flights of stairs from the station ending up on the street almost under the bridge. I was about an hour and half early but it's hard to get timings right by rail, tube, and more rail, so I was looking for somewhere to sit for a coffee. There happened to be a cafe almost opposite, on the other side of the road. A place called The Waiting Room. A man was sitting outside at the table, reading. It was warm enough for that. The man looked elegant, middle aged but slightly worn down by life. It seemed too cold to be sitting outside so I went in. It was a small place without room for tables but a narrow bar on one side, above which were ranged a number of books advertised for exchange. Opposite, a soft, mock-leather sofa, some magazines, and a miscellaneous set of posters. Young man with a straggly beard behind the counter. I ordered a double espresso (We only do doubles, he said) good and very cheap at the price. I took out my paper and started doing the crossword. The man who had been sitting outside came in. It's getting cold, he said and sat down next to me.
I started a conversation with the boy behind the counter. He told me where the Albany was, how long the cafe had been there, what kind of people lived-in the area (A lot of artists now, he said.) The man who'd been outside kept quiet. I moved over to the sofa for comfort. A girl came in, looked round and ordered a tea then sat down on the sofa with me. She wasn't English. After a while I decided that sitting next to each other we might as well talk without it looking as though I were about to proposition her, so I asked where she was from. Poland, she said. We talked about Poland, about Polish cities. Been here long? I asked her. Three months, she answered. It turned out she had come over, not from Poland but from Vietnam. Volunteer work, she said. The worn man had gone off to get some money so he could pay the boy behind the counter.
The boy sounded faintly northern. I suggested Yorkshire. Correct. He'd been a student in Birmingham. The girl was surprised I could hear his accent. She couldn't. It seemed the boy had been doing some music. What kind of music? I asked. Like the music in the background (grunge metal played not too loud, it was a very friendly place)? No, he said. Extreme punk. He sort of played an instrument, he said, but chiefly he shouted. They toured all over the world, often playing to no more than about thirty people.
The place was due to shut at seven. That's OK he said, it will take me ten fifteen minutes to clear up. You can hang around. So we did. It was a sweet girl - that at least was my impression - with a sweet Polish face, and an easy-going young man. The worn man had returned with the money and had gone again. I paid for the very cheap but perfectly decent Ploughman's Lunch and the big tea that I'd been drinking and followed the boy's instructions to the Albany, just around the corner. It was warm. A very light wind. A raincoat was enough for the first time in weeks.
I recommend The Waiting Room. Nothing fancy, but just right for being in between things: literally a waiting room. It has a website too. Now I am extremely tired. Finished writing and editing the Finzi lecture, arranged more of the programme of the Wymondham Words Festival, had a committee meeting, had curry for supper and fell asleep to Melvyn on class and culture on TV though I very much wanted to watch it. And so to bed.