Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Poster boy blue

- With Ian McMillan

I’m off to an arts centre to do a poetry and live cartoon show with my mate Tony Husband; so many of our shows got cancelled during the various lockdowns and half-lockdowns but now we’re back to doing a few and people are coming out again, blinking in the light, wearing masks against the infectious darkness.

I missed performing so much and I had plenty of time to work out why there was hole in my life through the lack of standing on a stage and eventually I came to the conclusion that for me being on a stage defines who I am and helps me to work out who I might become.

I get off a train and get on a tram. There are people everywhere, some masked, some not. Each of them has their own complexiti­es, their own internal battles, their own collection­s of memories and, probably, they all have a little secret hidden away somewhere. The writer in me wants to make up stories about them but the performer in me wants to imagine them on stage telling their stories of how they’ve coped over the last 18 months and what kinds of lessons they might have learned that they could share with the rest of us.

I get to the arts centre, my mind buzzing with all the autobiogra­phical tales that everybody I’m walking by could tell. I’m very early, I realise, but there’s a football match on and I wanted to avoid the crowds.

I stand in the foyer and an official-looking man looks at me quizzicall­y and I say, by way of introducti­on: “I’m here for tonight’s show.” He looks at the clock on the wall and says: “You’re very early” and I say: “Yes, I like to be early.” He replies: “Yes, but you’re really, really early” and we both look at the clock to confirm that I am indeed both very early and really, really early. I smile. On the wall near where we’re both standing is a poster of Tony and I; I’m wearing a different shirt from the one I’ve got on but it’s still obviously me.

He says: “Look, the cafe’s still open so why don’t you pop in and have a cup of tea and then when the box office opens we can sort out your ticket?”

Ah. He thinks I’ve come to see the show when in fact I am the show, well, half of it. I didn’t want to say something like: “Do you know who I am?” because I’d never say anything like that so I said: “I don’t think I need a ticket” as I inched closer to the poster with my face on. And he said: “Oh, I think you will.”

I wonder who any of us really are? I said I would like to hear all the stories of all the people I passed by on my way here but maybe I’d just like to hear my own. Maybe my own stories are worth listening to, even though I’ve heard them all before. I’ll get a ticket to my gig and see what happens. Then

I’ll see who I am.

 ?? ??

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