ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Spoken Word ED2014 Week1 Edition

David Lee Morgan: Honest words

By | Published on Monday 4 August 2014

David Lee Morgan

In amongst a particularly strong spoken word selection in the Free Fringe this year, David Lee Morgan’s show stands out, as he follows on last year’s excellent ‘Science, Love And Revolution’ with ‘Pornography And Heartbreak’. We caught up with the Slam Poetry champion and acclaimed spoken word performer to find out more about his new show, its subject matter, and how he goes about creating his Fringe productions.

CC: Tell us about ‘Pornography And Heartbreak’, what’s the premise for the show?
DLM: It’s a gut-wrenchingly honest show about sexuality, sexual fantasy and violence, and about my complicity with what I am writing about.

CC: Is there a specific message in it?
DLM: A powerful work of art usually has conflicting messages – if any – and often not those the artist intended. But I think one theme in my play is this: pornography is sexual fantasy, packaged and sold by the pornography industry. And its violence and misogyny are a symptom of just how much our society hates women. But pornography is not identical with sexual fantasy. Whatever happens to the pornography industry, you cannot stop sexual fantasy itself, nor its expression in words and pictures.

CC: What motivated exploring this theme at the Fringe this year?
DLM: The biggest motivator was the response to last year’s show, ‘Science, Love And Revolution’. The show was from my heart, but it was from the best most idealistic part of my heart. People responded to the idealism so strongly that I felt I had to show the darker parts of me, or else I would be a hypocrite forever.

CC: When you put together a full-hour show like this for the Festival, do you bring together work you’ve already written that fits a theme, or do you write an hour of new material?
DLM: I mostly write new material, but I’ve been writing a long time, so often there are a few older things that might fit in, or that serve as a launch pad for the new writing.

CC: Your passionate performance style is often noted by reviewers. When you write a poem, are you imagining how you will perform it, or do you write it for the page and then transform it for the stage?
DLM: I might think about theatrical elements that could be fused with the writing. For example, in this show, I knew from the start that I would be switching between ‘lights on’ and ‘blackout’ as I did the more confessional pieces. But I don’t think at all about my personal performance when I’m writing. If the piece is well-written, the performance writes itself. I think my biggest weakness as a performer is a tendency to over-project, to over-perform. When I think consciously about performance, it’s usually about reining that in.

CC: You’ve performed in a number of poetry slam competitions. For the uninitiated, what does that involve?
DLM: Slam poetry is a very specialised form of poetry. In fact, it might be more accurate to call it a form of speech-making. You have three minutes – usually – to win your audience over to your point of view and make them cheer for it. Doesn’t matter how good your poetry is, if the judges don’t agree with what you’re saying, you won’t win.

CC: How does your performance style differ in the competition environment, compared to when you are doing a full show like at the Fringe?
DLM: I’m more relaxed in a show. You can screw up and say, “oops, I screwed up”, and often that just helps you connect better with the audience. In a competition, you need to be intense and perfect.

CC: You sense the spoken word genre has really grown at the Edinburgh Festival in recent years, would you agree? Why do you think that is?
DLM: The spoken word scene has grown tremendously all over the UK. In addition, at the Fringe, there were the two big game changers: adding ‘Spoken Word’ as a Fringe category and the PBH Free Fringe. It means you don’t have to pretend your show is theatre or comedy when it isn’t either – and you don’t have to rob and pillage to get enough money to put on a show.

CC: That said, I suppose different people might define ‘spoken word’ in different ways. What does the genre term mean to you? Any tips for navigating spoken word at the Festival?
DLM: It means poetry that thinks firstly about the music of words and only secondly about how they will look on the page. My tip: Go to everything (and check out other one-person performances in comedy and theatre that might have something useful to steal).

CC: You’ve written novels and for musical theatre as well as poetry and your spoken word shows, how do the different disciplines compare? Do you have a favourite?
DLM: I love writing for musical theatre. Just as in Elizabethan plays, it has everything: you can have true-to-life dialogue and soaring poetry in the soliloquy/song lyrics. The problem for me was this: a play isn’t truly written until it’s been put up on stage. I got tired of writing for my desk drawer.

CC: What plans have you got for ‘Pornography And Heartbreak’ beyond this year’s Festival?
DLM: I will perform it anywhere I can find two or more people to sit down and listen to it. At the same time, I will be working on a show for next year, and the year after, and the year after…

CC: Can you do us a show plug in the form of a short poem?
DLM: How about this…
See the show

No? Well, how about this…
He said, is it good?
And she said
I was pinned there, helpless
But afterwards it turned me on to remember
Outside the window
I could hear him fucking her
Driving a nail into my stomach

Or maybe this one…
This is the story of monster Fred
A guided tour, an ABC
Of the terrible things inside his head

Here is a tale of shame and dread
And the only thing i can guarantee
This is the story of monster Fred

What is the food on which he fed
That grew the dark depravity
Of the terrible things inside his head

He wasn’t a monster, born and bred
So how did he lose humanity
This is the story of monster Fred

And maybe the light that this can shed
Will help, in a way, to set him free
From the terrible things inside his head

But what of the victims living and dead
Are they fantasy or reality
This is the story of monster Fred
And the terrible things inside his Head

‘Pornography And Heartbreak’ was performed at the Banshee Labyrinth at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: www.davidword.com