Friday, August 03, 2007
The Yarngina Monologue
I guess I should tell the full tale of the yarngina since many people have been bemused, shocked and simply intrigued by my last project which took up ALL of what little precious knitting time I had after working 11 hour days and neglecting poor, long-suffering Gruff. It's the Yarngina for my dear friend Janice's one woman show for this year's Edinburgh fringe festival. Janice was one of the first friends I made when I came to London to do my Masters more than 10 years ago. We studied here and together with some others friends on the course, have been through thick and thin together in the intervening decade.
Janice has been going up to Edinburgh for the last 10 years in shows of various descriptions, comedy double-acts, 10-minute stand-up slots, children's shows and one of her earliest sketch shows 'Sparkling' was directed by yours truely @ the Gilded Balloon where we got 4 stars in the The Scotsman for our efforts. Anyway, Janice has been working hard on the comedy circuit for the last 3 years and was runner-up in the Funny Women competition in 2004 and a finalist in the Hackney New Comedy Act competition in 2005. In all these years, I have always thought that I could write some material for her to use which was a safe way for me to come up with looney ideas without having to actually test them out myself.
For her first solo show, Janice decided to ask all her friends back in January to write a little character specially for her… except that almost everyone misinterpreted her request. Someone wrote a poem about Janice, another wrote a fictional monologue of a character she thought Janice could play and someone else wrote a little monologue all about herself (and not Janice)… anyway, I think the whole intention was to give Janice some ideas to work off.
But you see, Janice has enough looney ideas of her own and her stand-up set through the years has quickly became centred around her dysfunctional sex life and embarassing moments of discovering tissue stuck in intimate areas during the throes of passion… you get the idea I hope. So when faced with this request, I thought I would find a way for Janice to use her own ideas and material if she could tell her life story through her genital's perspective - an exercise for student pyschiatrists examining sexuality I am told. This would thereby negate the need for me to come up with ideas for her and therefore cunningly deflect her whole request. I should also mention that it is extremely hard to write comedy material that is any good as I have discovered through years of trying. When I told a friend about my cunning idea, he casually and slightly mockingly suggested that I could knit Janice a costume thereby combining helping a friend with something I loved. Said friend has also been somewhat exasperated that I have less time for hanging out and partying since I have become such a compulsive and obsessed knitter devoid of a social life. I thought this was a brilliant idea although I knew it would be frought with potential hiccups (what yarn would I use? Where would I find a pattern for a knitted yarngina? How would I create something that an audience would recognise in a instant without the need for dry explanations? What about all the million other projects I had lined up?) Needless to say, it was a bit of a challenge but one that I thought would provide some laughs along the way.
Once I'd made that promise to a delighted Janice, it was hard to extricate myself from my pledge - she also decided that it would be a great way for her to close the show, so no pressure there! One Wednesday evening at Ks & Ps, I blurted it out when I no longer cared if the group would think I was odd, deranged and perhaps frankly a little perverse. Thankfully, everyone thought it was hilarious as I kind of suspected they would, seeing as they are all unflappably cool ladies - P our unelected ringleader & Loba our technical genius offered up various suggestions for construction, Lucy very kindly offered to donate some fun brown eyelash yarn for the cause and Helen just could not stop giggling.
As the deadline drew close, the risk of failure was increasing - what if it didn't turn out 'right', what if I had to make numerous attempts, frog and re-frog and re-knit the project, what if, what if, what if - my thoughts became a tangled up mess. I became convinced that it would all be alright as long as I thought it through properly before execution - so I would draw little doodles at work, at the back of receipts trying to imagine how it should look and randomly start a thoughtful discussion with an amused Gruff about various possibilities. Time was running out and deadlines went whizzing by, in a desperate attempt to buy myself more time, I tried to persuade Janice to postpone her show to next year, but she had paid up at the venue and the flyers had been printed so there was no going back - the only other option (which I briefly entertained) was me leaving the country for a while. There was no doubt in anyone's minds that a yarngina could somehow be made but I was working towards such a tight deadline that at one point, Gail could see all of us working on it at Wednesday's Ks & Ps. There was even talk of me bringing the 'Lovebox' to the Lovebox festival at Victoria Park for some emergency group knitting but as it had rained the previous day, I did not want to run the risk of lugging a wet, soggy and heavy yarngina around in cramped music tents.
With a lot of frantic and speed knitting in the final week, the yarngina was finally completed last Wednesday with some added assistance from another good friend Martina - tasked with stuffing an old pair of tights whilst pouring out her woes about her disasterous romantic weekend in Paris. When the yarngina was unveiled however, we all fell about laughing with tears streaming down our faces - Janice is also the only person I know who can even remotely carry off wearing a knitted yarngina. It was a priceless moment and Janice was completely amazed, touched and grateful - I was just relieved that it came out as expected. Another friend who saw it a few days later was laughing so hard she had to leave the room and has sworn that she will never ever tease me about my knitting again.
I like to think that I might have shown that knitting is not a fuddy-duddy pursuit confined to elderly ladies and that the possibilities are endless with the use of just some sticks and string. Best of all, I think that Janice is going to have an exceptional show which she richly and truly deserves. If you're up in Edinburgh at all this year - please do go and see it here.