- Dr and the medics Clive Jackson stars in Poe zest at the Bloomsbury Theatre 15th 16th 17th March.
Laura Beth catches up with Clive Jackson prior to his West End debut in Poe Zest at the Bloomsbury Theatre:
Poe Zest has already been successful as an audiobook, kindle release and paperback. With Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe being reimagined by Mike Bennett who has produced artists such The Fall and Kim Fowley and lead singer of Doctor and the Medics The Rev Doctor Clive Jackson playing a host of characters, including Queen Victoria, it promises to be a mad night.
I was lucky enough to catch media city rehearsal of the forthcoming event that opens at the Bloomsbury Theatre in mid-March. It’s a weird and wonderful affair with “Medics” in observing Poe character Robert Jones in a maniacal asylum that is part cinematic and part stage presentation.
The installation also features Lanah P. who has a host of theatrical credits including the film “Eat The Rich” from The Comic Strip Presents!
I caught up with Clive Jackson and asked him how on earth he got involved in this original piece of insane work.
- Q) You co-wrote ‘Grimly Fiendish’ by the Damned so you are obviously a great follower of all things Gothic. How did you become embroiled in this production and what is the steampunk element all about?
- A) I think when you look back at us around ‘84-86, had Goth been a recognised genre at that time we would have been labeled as such. Not sure if that would have been a good thing or not, as we have never had one label on us.
Creatively, Goth and the romance of the dark side has always been a candle to my moth-like mind. As I wrote ‘Grimly Fiendish’, the Damned invited me to tour on the Phantasmagoria Tour, which was a wonderfully Gothic package and I’m always grateful as that tour did us so much good.
In recent times we have been lucky enough to be able to tag a ride on the coat tails of steampunk as well, playing at steampunk events and we are still fortunate enough to be invited to play the Whitby Goth Weekend.
So with that in mind I saw Mike Bennett’s Youtube trailer for Poe Zest stating that a steampunk clad actor would be the narrator and play all the characters so I kicked his door down and forced him into casting me in the role!
Q) Sometimes in your self-deprecating way you refer to yourself as a one hit wonder when in fact you had other hits and of course you co-wrote ‘Grimly Fiendish’ for the Damned. Apart from ‘Spirit in the Sky’, which I gather is a grand finale, are you using influences from your other pieces of work?
A) Musically no, but then I like that. We are working with a wonderful musical score so for me it’s always great to work in new formats. Performance wise it’s all so different as well, but the Doctor is never far from the surface!!!
Q) I gather there is a very rare Edgar Allan Poe yarn in the piece concerning the size of a man’s nose. Please tell me more?
- I’ll immerse myself in Poe after the show!
- Q) Elements of the author’s life are interwoven into the play. He certainly had a very strange death and dabbled in all kinds of mind-bending influences. How much do you think the mind-bending substances crept into his method of thinking and was utilised to perfect his prose?
- A) I think that has been well documented and you certainly can’t do a performance like this without drawing that into the narrative. Like so many elements of Poe’s life it gets sewn into the rich tapestry of this show in such a way that Poe fans will recognise straight away. But it is used as an integral part of a piece that people new to Poe will be enthralled by and hopefully go on to maybe discover more about this visionary author!
- Q) Poe literally invented the detective genre and of course science fiction. You use film and music to punctuate this within the installation. Guy Cavill provides a classical gothic score and Steve Bowden’s art has some cinematic wizardry here. Are multimedia events the way forward?
- A) Well they are something I want to explore right here and right now! I think live music is going through a transition now. Traditional venues are sadly struggling. When I was young, your music was your culture and you lived it, breathed it and gigs were our temples and templates for life! It’s great to play the “traditional” venues, and long may they survive, but there are less of them and so you have to adapt and sometimes look at your “gig” as a “show”. Even Butlins have AV screens with your projections on when you play!! But more artists are utilising the technology available now and using the multimedia element to present more of a concept.
Some of the most creative bands have always taken new technology and embraced it into their art, from the first Wah Wah pedal to the endless possibilities of the digital multiverse we live in now. So it’s very much a natural progression.
Our album we are working on now with the Medics is very much a story. If we ever get to tour it, it would be great to present it as a multimedia show… Watch this space!
- Q) The Black Cat is a personal favourite of mine and in the Tell-Tale Heart a similar theme is embraced. Dead bodies behind walls and pulsing dead hearts under creepy wooden floorboards. Do you think the theme here is guilt and did Poe have something to hide?
- A) Of course he did. I’m sure Mother Teresa had at least one thing to hide so God knows what was in Poe’s Locker of secrets with the life he led. As for guilt, I’m sure he may have used the concept creatively but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was not one of his demons in real life!
- Q) Poe had a fear of being buried alive and the Premature Burial is a classic. How do you go about betraying something like this on a stage? It must be tempting to go into the Rocky Horror genre or for light relief even slightly tongue in cheek Christopher Lee, Vincent Price idiom.
- A) We are working on that and steering away from it. I’d like to tell you how but with work in progress I’m not sure I know! I do know we have a template to keep it from that side, we are probably steering more towards the League of Gentlemen.
- Q) How does it feel to be playing the mighty Queen Victoria? It’s certainly the correct era and the great man did spend much of his time in England. How does the queen come into the plot?
- A) The Queen is quite outrageous. Let’s just say she is clearly a fan of renowned extensions!! I’ve almost ignored the fact that it is Victoria and characterised her as a Poezesque creature hiding behind the veil of decency!
- Q) Mike Bennett is primarily known as a record producer although he has worked in the West End many times in off-the-wall projects with people like Steve Harley. Does he direct you in a formal theatrical way or does he use his production skills as a record producer to bring things together?
- A) This is quite a unique production for me, not a play in the traditional sense of the word, so we started with a blank canvas when we started work on it in every area. He definitely uses music production creativity in parts, which of course I can relate to, so I think we are working well together on that front. He has so much theatre experience though so he’s very comfortable on that side as well.
- Q) Are you cross fertilising different eras to make a magical power world of your own or is the Victorian period set in stone for this unusual event?
- A) I think it’s timeless. I don’t think anyone would instantly associate it with Victoriana. There are elements of that, certainly when dealing with Noseology when the social codes and morals of the time are dealt with in a very representational and metaphorical way. In fact, in a huge swelling metaphorical set of prose, dribbling with suggestion!!!
- Q) The Bloomsbury Theatre is very ambitious. Did you not think of taking it to the fringe first and then bring it into such a high-profile venue? How did you manage to get the piece on at the Bloomsbury in the first place?
- A) Mike has a track record there and that must have helped. They have been very supportive. We are in the Studio part of the theatre so it’s a half way house between fringe and the main theatre, which I’m very comfortable with. We visited it early on and I loved the space, very intimate and perfect to launch the piece from.
- Q) Last but not least, what are Doctor and the Medics up to nowadays?
- A) As I alluded to earlier we are recording our first album for over 20 years. The main problem with that is finding time to finish it but we are getting there.
Last year was our busiest year for over 25 years on the live circuit.
The current line-up is amazing. In 1999 we couldn’t buy a gig and a few of the band have been with me since then. So for them I’m so pleased that we are so busy now. They deserve it. It’s taken a while. In fact our come back has been longer than most bands careers!
But then how can you come back when you never went away, and how can you go away when you may never have been there in the first place?
Watch this space…………..
Clive Jackson it’s been a pleasure speaking to you.
https://www.poezest.co.ukA) The fine art of Noseology!! In all honesty I have not read Poe’s piece on this yet and I am waiting until I have done the first performances at The Bloomsbury as Mike quite likes where we are going with it at the moment. So all I have in my head at the moment is Mike’s reworking of it. It’s dark, very dark, funny and surreal. Poefect!