Listening to prose isn’t easy. There can be long passages without obvious rhythmic hooks, rhymes or meter to keep the focus. Mollie Baxter is, off course an experienced performer as musician and as a writer. At this Spotlight she wore her author’s hat, offering up an extract from a story about a writer.
Stories about writers struggling for words, fighting blocks, finding ways around their story are not unusual, but frequently too clever for their own good. The meta-fictive nature of a story like this one, where characters come alive and confront their author needs a sure touch and a genuine raison d’etre if it is to work well.
So in this case, and I’m not sure Mollie told us its title, a struggling author suddenly feels a presence in his room, a gun at his head. ‘Write’ he is ordered. ‘Write me.’ A future, unwritten character, a gangster in the Ray Winstone mould it seems, is fed up waiting his turn. He wants his time in the limelight, and he wants it now.
To make this work as performance, Mollie had to adopt the voices, of course. The cockney/mockney of Gangster Moll contrasting with the effete author nicely, and generating a few laughs too. Without the voices, the humour and the dynamic between the characters this story would fail on any level, but read aloud it would be a disaster. Fortunately this extract managed to just about maintain momentum, repeated itself on the odd occasion, but it worked.
It was, however, an extract, Mollie outlined the scenario first, and perhaps there is material here unsuitable to read aloud. One wonders, without seeing it, whether that also means its material the story doesn’t need at all. Which leads to the other problem I often have with hearing a story like this: I want, afterwards, to read it, not just hear it, to find the nuances I missed, to see if the clues were there, if the story was just a nice, amusing performance piece, or something with other layers.