ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Spoken Word ED2014 Week0 Edition

Nadia Brooks: Speaking about the words

By | Published on Tuesday 29 July 2014


Nadia Brooks is a ‘lexophile’ with a passion for rhyming, alliteration and entertaining words; and she’s coming to Edinburgh as the Lexicon Lady, promising an hour of wordplay, with plenty of poetry, prose and puns, and some free Love Hearts along the way. A journalist by trade, Brooks arrived with her first spoken word show at the Free Festival last August, returning with a brand new show this year. We spoke to the lady of lovely letters about taking her words off the page, her dabblings with stand-up, and what we can expect from the new show.

CC: I do “absolutely adore alliteration, think rhyme is sublime and like being foonsped spoolfuns of spoonerisms”, as your blurb puts it. So basically your new show is just for people like me?
NB: Brilliant! Shall we start a ‘Fight Club’ style organisation for like-minded lexophiles? Although as we wouldn’t be able to talk about it, we might come a bit p-unstuck. Though I do reckon there are plenty more of the likes of you and I around here than folks are letting on. I think a lot of citizens secretly enjoy a good pun. Words are fun. They’re very popular with the populace. Also, Swizzels Matlow have sent me a crate full of Love Hearts to give away at the show, so if that doesn’t get people excited, well, I don’t know what will.

CC: You’ve undertaken an eclectic range of creative projects, though you seem most prolific as a journalist. So what attracted you to spoken word?
NB: I suppose journalism is my ‘day job’ and a privileged day job it is too, as I get to interview a lot of interesting people and many personal heroes. Though so far not Professor Stephen Hawking, who I’d love to interview. From an early age I knew I wanted to spend my life writing and so I would create humourous poetry. My earliest gig was with a friend, we took to the steps of one of the primary school mobile classrooms during dinner break and sang a song I’d written. My teacher made us perform it again to our classmates. It was called ‘Pocket Fluff’. It was all about that mysterious substance that inexplicably appears inside garments. It’s the dark matter inside the black holes of haberdashery. I know that doesn’t exactly make sense but I love the word haberdashery. Everyone does don’t they? I also like mamihlapinatapai, saudade, fernweh and jaunty.

CC: Is delivering your words in public easier or harder than writing an article and posting it into the ether?
NB: It’s definitely much harder, so to anyone who’s going to come along, please be gentle with me. First and foremost I consider myself a writer and not a performer. For me the pen is mightier than the s(poken)word. I feel my written words speak better than I do. Actually, I’d love to write things for others to perform.

CC: Last Fringe you performed a show telling stories of your travels in America. How did that go?
NB: Brilliantly. It was my debut Fringe show so I didn’t know if anyone would turn up. I seemed to be a hit with the Countdown viewership, students and mature adults. It was an accident that I did it. I’d written a book about the 6000-mile solo American road trip I did two years ago and a friend who had performed at Edinburgh suggested I do a show about it. I’m currently looking for a publisher for the book by the way, so if anyone fancies the idea of a book that I like to think blends Michael Palin, Professor Brian Cox, Alan Bennett and Nelly Bly please get in touch!

CC: Back to ‘Lexicon Lady’, where did the idea for the new show come from?
NB: I love how words weave meaning thanks to the bountiful tapestry of language. It’s better than the one in Bayeux and not as moth-eaten. Also I’m hoping the show might come to the attention of Susie Dent, the word-loving woman’s word woman. It’s my dream to be her apprentice or even just make her a cuppa really.

CC: The blurb promises poetry, prose and puns. Is that the alliteration thing again, or do all three appear? How does it work? Did you write the show in one go, or does it bring together existing poems and ponderings?
NB: There will be pithy poems, poignant prose and perky puns as well as a litter of alliteration. Like many writers I always have a notebook with me to note down musings. I must look so quaint as I’m scribbling away with such old-fashioned implements. So the show is a melded mass of messy meditations made magnificent.

CC: Presumably you enjoyed your Edinburgh Fringe stint last year? What attracted you back?
NB: Indeed I did. Edinburgh is glorious. It’s one of the best cities in the world, probably even the universe, although I bet the capital of Tatooine is a blast, especially that cantina. When I wasn’t watching the films of 007 as a youngster I used to listen to my dad’s ‘Beyond The Fringe’ LP. So to be lucky enough to be immersed in the ace-ness of the Edinburgh Festival is about as exciting as being a Bond girl. I’m also hoping someone might bring me a kaleidoscope which is why I’ve referred to one in my blurb. Kaleidoscopes really are spectacular. A rainbow supernova in a twisty hand-held tube – how do they do it?!

CC: Our reviewer last year said your show “walks the line between spoken word and very gentle stand-up”. You’ve done some more straight up comedy as well, I think. Would you consider doing a show in the Fringe’s comedy programme?
NB: My first ever stand-up gig was at the Comedy Store in LA a few years ago. It went quite well so I did open mic nights in the States for a while when I was over there doing script supervising on feature films. Curiously it led to me doing a French voiceover for a Sarah Silverman sketch, which was sadly ditched because I sounded too young. I did more stand-up again this year at Riot LA, an alternative comedy festival in Los Angeles, and was second runner-up in my heat of Foster’s South Coast Comedian Of The Year competition in May, which I didn’t expect. The stand-up thing is more just about having another avenue for my words to wander down. Though I’m probably too ‘young Thora Hird meets The Littlest Hobo’ to be allowed in the Fringe’s comedy section.

CC: You’re back as part of the Free Festival. How did you find that last year? Were the Free Festival audience’s generous?
NB: The Free Festival is champion. Last year the audience was very generous – I donated all my bucket money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and so we were able to fulfil a few wishes. This year any loose change the audience care to give will go to charity again.

CC: What are your top three spoonerisms?
NB: First: A spoonerism evokes laughter, shared laughter is common ground and common ground is grounds for peace. Which is why the spoonerism balked into a war.
Second: When the ape tried to climb to the highest bed, but he misjudged it and fell instead, his monkey business turned into bunky miss-ness.
And last but not least, Spam and June of course!

‘Lexicon Lady: A Woman Of Lovely Letters’ was performed at Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: allthewritenotes.wordpress.com