Reading, performing or appearing?

What do you do if you have to read your work aloud? I am a performer, rather than a reader, but I know many writers (possibly more self-confident and well-balanced writers) who simply read. And there are those few, those stunning souls of coruscating intellect, charm or whatever, who ‘appear’.

What I mean by reading is that there are people who can turn up in their street clothes, not tell anecdotes, speak in their normal voices and still hold an audience. I am not one of them. For me to read in public, I have to put on a persona, and ‘special’ clothes and have a couple of little stories to tell to try and win people over before I launch into actually sharing my world with them face to face, as it were.

One of the horrible aspects of writing is that you’re never quite sure (or at least I’m not) whether something written to be read from the page will then become that bewildering beast, a creature to be read aloud to an audience. So it was with The Price of Freedom, which was commissioned for the Macmillan Cancer Trust Burlesque anthology – in my mind, when I wrote it, were the following facts:

1. It was being written as erotica, but for a cancer charity anthology, so it had to balance burlesque, sex and something more
2. Lots of writers were being commissioned to write for the antho, so the story needed to have a different edge, something that would distinguish it
3. I needed to feel that I’d done my best for a good cause.

What wasn’t in my mind was the idea that I might end up reading it aloud. So I chose to write about a London burlesque club on the eve of VJ day in 1945. And while that was a great subject to write about, it wasn’t such an easy thing to tackle in public. Let alone in Komedia, on a Friday night, as part of a burlesque spectacular.

But I did it. I wore the 1947 crepe de chine dress and some very silly shoes that I had to take off half way along Gardner Street after the show and hail a taxi barefoot. It was fun, but …

Reading as Carmel Lockyer is very difficult. Carmel is only a bit of me, as I see it. She’s not a whole person. Her subject, erotica, is fun, but it’s also only a bit of what I do. So reading as Carmel feels very strange – like being pared down to a small part of myself, put on a very big stage and left to get on with it.

It was lovely. I’m glad it’s over. I hope never to do it again!

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