Mad and Glow – the experiment

8 Oct
Mad and Glow

Mad and glowing (photo by Nine Arches Press)


I met Tania Hershman, Poet in Residence at Swindon and my now partner-in-poetry, at the Nine Arches Christmas party last year. When we heard each other read, we were both struck by the ways our work resonated, although our styles are very different, and began to wonder whether, given that we both have a background in theatre, we might put together a two-woman show. As we were beginning to focus on this idea, we realised that we were going to be at Swindon at the same time. This seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, so we tentatively asked Hilda Sheehan whether we could have ten minutes for little scratch performance. Hilda being Hilda, lover of experiments, gave us a one hour slot and left us to it. And so Mad and Glow was born. This is a two-woman show directed by my daughter Tamar, involving tea, sandwiches, audience participation and quite a lot of poetry.

Tania and I had a fantastic time constructing the show, swapping poems back and forth and finding a narrative arc and some thematic links. The Swindon audience were perfect for it; really attentive and encouraging. They laughed, they clapped, they joined in, they commented afterwards. The show still has some growing to do – it’s very much in process  but we’re so happy to have begun this journey. We both enjoy the performative side of poetry – live literature really – and this gave us a chance to let our hair down, get away from the conventional poetry reading (which we also love) and do something ‘mischievous’, as our publisher Jane Commane at Nine Arches put it. We’ve had some useful feedback from the audience and are now ready for our next phase of development with a gig coming up next February at the Verve Festival in Birmingham. Ah, the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd …

Written by Louisa Davison

I didn’t realise until I read Jacqueline’s account above that the two performers had only known each other for less than a year. With the chemistry of old chums, the two enjoyed comfortable silences, cups of tea and marmite and jam sandwiches (not in the same one). They discussed, through verse and prose, rubbish parents, the difficulties of making friends in middle age, bizarre gifts and wierd meals. We found out Jacqueline’s father was married five times (I think this was the truth and not the script) and ‘had a thing for flesh’. Tania saw her mother’s actual heart – or was this a literal description of a common metaphor turned back into a metaphor?

We heard some strange contributions from the audience, via their written suggestions pulled from a hat. The weirdest meal had to be boiled egg with chocolate sprinkles eaten in a Berlin brothal. And the worst gift, also meal-related – dinner for two at a Japanese restaurant closed by the health inspectors.

Strangest of all, most of the audience liked marmite.

Mad & Glow was performed at the Richard Jefferies Museum on 8 October 2017 as part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

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