Comedy stage performer Lindsay Sharman is a greater writer than William Shakespeare.
I do not actually think that.
She is good, but she has just this week published a novel Magenta with a quote from me on its back cover and I want to try to be quoted again as a supposedly authoritative source.
“I know one couple who are both comedians and they never get involved in each other’s work,” I told them after the show. “Do you ever work together at home?”
“We bounce a lot of stuff off each other,” said Laurence.
“Oh we do all the time,” said Lindsay.
“Quite often,” said Laurence, “we’ve set aside nights where we go to a cafe in Waterloo that stays open late. When we were talking about our Edinburgh shows this year we went there. It’s very useful to have Lindsay talk sense to me.”
“And it helps,” I suggested, “that you’re not really performing the same type of material.”
“I’m not really musical at all,” said Lindsay.
“The music’s covered,” said Laurence. “I can deal with that because my day job is composing bits and bobs for theatre and films.”
“He’s currently,” said Lindsay, “doing something for the theatre group 1927. They’re going into the Young Vic and he’s doing the soundscape.”
In the preview I had just seen, Laurence had not yet written the music for the final song, though he had written the words, so he read them out.
“I was amazed,” I told him, “that you could write the words first when the rhythm and presumably the melody keeps changing.”
“I have to write the lyrics before I know what the song is all about,” Laurence explained. “The lyrics dictate the music. But I’ve got the melodies in my head for that final song.”
“It’s going to be a little bit Zorba The Greek, isn’t it?” said Lindsay.
“Yes,” agreed Laurence, “a little bit like Zorba and a little bit like Offenbach’s Can-Can. That’s kind of what I’m hearing.
“I tend to write the songs as a sort of poem first of all and, while I do that, I’ll probably be hearing a sort of vocal melody in my head which I’ll be using to help shape the lyrics. I might sometimes cheat and base it on another song and change all the music after I’ve finished.”
“This is like people asking Where do you get your ideas from?” said Lindsay.
“And then, when you tell ‘em, they don’t give a shit,” said Laurence.
“But it does interest me,” I pleaded. “What’s your book about, Lindsay?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “Now I feel like I have to be coherent.”
“Why?” I said. “Let’s not spoil things.”
I had driven down to London from Leeds the previous night, went to bed at 5.00am and got up again at 8.30am. I was blabbering from an empty head.
“It’s a novel,” said Lindsay.
“In character as Madame Magenta,” I said. “Who is a psychic and medium and white witch and who wears a rather fetching red turban.”
“The turban is hot under stage lights,” said Lindsay. “The book is written from the point of view of Magenta. She goes off on an adventure.”
“Why write it?” I asked.
“To sell after gigs,” she replied.
“But it wasn’t totally money-driven…” I said.
“It was a sort of personal challenge,” explained Lindsay. “Everyone thinks they have a book inside of them and I thought: Let’s see if I actually am capable of it. Also I felt that my comedic voice or my ability to communicate with an audience might translate into the written word.”
The blurb on the back says:
Renowned psychic and medium Madame Magenta has two husbands. Fortunately, one of them is dead. Less fortunately, death has turned him into a massive pain in the arse.
Magenta has three days to return husband no.1 to the Other Side, or she’s stuck with him for good. Only dubious doings, dark magic and dealings with the criminal underworld can help her now.
“A Joyce Grenfell for the 21st Century” – John Fleming, founder of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards
I think that last quote will be the thing that sells the book.
“I’ve read voraciously since I was a kid,” Lindsay told me last night, “and I thought: If I’ve absorbed all these books and I’ve started developing my voice comedically then surely I’m capable of forming some kind of decent novel?
“Why written by Madame Magenta and not Lindsay Sharman?” I asked.
“Because I started writing and didn’t know where I was going to go,” explained Lindsay. “She was an already-formed character, so I knew how she thought and what she’d do and I had a vague idea of her family life and context.”
“Yes,” I said, “I had no idea until he was mentioned in the show tonight that she had a husband.”
“Oh,” said Laurence, “he’s very well explored in the book.”
“The book is a bit of a different animal to the stage show,” said Lindsay, “but it’s still recognisably her.”
“And it’s a comic novel,” I checked, “not a deep exploration of the human psyche?”
“I don’t think I’m capable of writing that kind of thing,” said Lindsay.
“I suspect you are,” I said.
“I think,” said Lindsay, “I’d have to take everything a bit more seriously than I probably do. I think I deal with everything through humour and that’s why I became a comedian.”