In February 2014 Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume 2) is playing at the Soho theatre (see link below). This is episode 1 of my account of the show’s birth….
What is it about? What songs will I sing? How will I sing them? What will I say? How will I say it? What the fuck is it about?
It is January 2013 and for 5 days John and I have been locked away with these questions and each other in a Travelodge in Eastbourne…..
Before Christmas I had told my loyal producer Rupert that, yes, there would be a follow-up to the Leonard Cohen show I performed 14 years ago and it would be ready for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
I co-wrote that first show with John Dowie (who also directed) and was accompanied onstage by guitarist/comedian/superstar Ronnie Golden. Having now resolved a return to Len’s oeuvre, I asked them both to help me; Ronnie declined but John, after some nagging, agreed and suggested we start with a long, intense, creative session somewhere with no distractions.
Which is why we are in the Travelodge. For nearly a week we have been here making notes and discussing what the thing might be. What is it about? What songs will I sing? How will I sing them? What will I say? How will I say it? What the fuck is it about?
We have tried very hard, as a dozen pages of thoughts and ideas testify, but in truth we are nowhere near finding a path through it all. It is the coldest Eastbourne has been for years. In a pause between debates I stand by the window in John’s room and watch the sea fighting with the snow on the beach.
There are no two people in the world who could endure this intimate incarceration without clashing and, by now, John and I are predictably sick of each other. We take a break and I decide to go for a walk along the frozen cliffs outside town.
Other questions are now presenting themselves: Is this show a good idea? Why do it at all? What else can I do instead? What’s happened to me? Have I lost it? I am beginning to feel (correctly as it turns out) that John is losing patience and will soon pull out of the project. The snow turns to rain; I stop and look out to sea. This is grim. Then I realize that I am on Beachy Head. I laugh into the bitterness….
From Last Year’s Man by Leonard Cohen…..
The rain falls down on last year’s man,
An hour has gone by
And he has not moved his hand.
But everything will happen if he only gives the word;
The lovers will rise up
And the mountains touch the ground.
But the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend
And all the rain falls down amen
On the works of last year’s man.
(to be continued)
Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too) Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014 – http://bit.ly/1auy20X