Being a literary baby, I’m still new to a lot of things – public readings in particular – so it may be that I’m just not familiar with how things generally go. But I’m willing to bet, nevertheless, that the average prose reading isn’t followed by a demonstration of lightbulb-eating by a trainee sword-swallower in nipple stickers, as mine was at the pretty fabulous Psychedelic Circus in Norwich, where I was invited to read last week. She was an utterly amazing performer and a lovely human, and I’m so glad I went first as I’m pretty sure I would have lost the audience entirely, otherwise.
It was a large-ish, predominantly young and very lively, bar-watered crowd who were not there to see me. My disposition before readings is something like that of an unpopular French aristocrat with an imminent appointment with the guillotine at the best of times (I say that like the seasoned performer I am, this being my third ever reading). But something seems to kick in once someone shoves a microphone in my hand and blocks all available venue exits. As has happened previously and equally inexplicably, stage confidence arrived from nowhere and I had an absolute blast. I don’t know if it’s because basically, I really, really like people, and getting to connect with loads of them at once overcomes the sweating terror of being in front of an audience. Or if the year and a half of improv shows I did before I lost my nerve has meant that I’ve made an utter idiot of myself in public often enough that my subconscious knows this can’t possibly be worse than the time me and my friend Dan pretended to be politically anarchist seagulls from Hull. And I guess the stories come from the heart, so the feelings that come with reading them definitely override some of the self-consciousness.
And the lovely, lovely, beautiful audience seemed to really, genuinely enjoy it. One of the young people came up and hugged me afterwards and said how much she loved it. Thanks so much for your encouragement, if you ever read this – it meant a lot. And thanks everyone else who was there for being such a wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic audience. I’m going to keep all my clothes on, but I’d love to come back.