Review: Memoirs From My Moleskine

Joanna Taylor 7 June 2016

Memoirs from my Moleskine, a recital of breathtakingly cringeworthy works from budding writers’ younger and more vulnerable years, sounded like a brilliant (and hilarious) concept from the moment I first heard it mentioned — it’s little wonder that it quickly sold out. I had high expectations for this evening of entertainment and was not disappointed by the variety of very funny and sometimes touching pieces, and the inappropriately formal setting.

A live band, chez longue and black tie contrasted with childhood poems about hawks and strawberries. Tim Atkin introduced each piece with a wonderfully deadpan style before reading out his own reflections on his first love whilst shopping at a garden centre with his Mum. I particularly enjoyed the comparison between his own shyness and the retreating reptiles into their cold, wet rocks. The direction and staging elements of the show from Lucy Moss and Jonah Hauer-King were pitched just right: the ambience of the writings’ backdrop enhanced the overall effect.

Easily the best recital was a collection of scenes from Anastasia Bruce-Jones’ version of BBC’s Sherlock, series 3: in fact, it was probably more entertaining than the real thing. After series two’s dramatic climax with Sherlock’s apparent death, Anastasia took it upon herself to fill in the rest, inventing a character called Nelly, transparently a version of herself. The scenes bordered dangerously on erotic fan-fiction with Nelly kissing Lestrade, Moriarty and Sherlock — and perhaps more — the latter asking Nelly what love feels like and receiving a painfully clichéd response. Nelly was dramatised by Eve Delaney, with hilarious facial expressions; Moriarty by Zak Ghazi-Torbati, whose less-than-suave Scottish accent completed the absurdity of the whole thing.

Another highlight was Alice Millington’s teenage diary, which reassured me that I was not the only fourteen year old who meticulously planned meetings with boys, began diary entries with ‘Oh, oh, oh…’ and documented my love life like most people keep accounts. Emma Corrin, at ten years old, composed an Austen-esque piece on swimming in a lake overseen by a vicar; Ellie Coote wrote a series of haikus on finding out she needed glasses; Mark Danciger complained to the CEO of Vue about his experience of watching The Avengers before asking for work experience at head office.

The range of pieces, short and long, poetry and prose, children’s and teenagers’ writing, kept up the evening’s pace and delighted the audience: a number of the performers had to wait significant periods for laughter to die down before they could continue. Surprisingly, but encouragingly, the performers weren’t laughed at. Exposing the building blocks of writers’ early work, and the trial-and-error process of different techniques may well have inspired others not to give up because their work sounds cringey and clichéd in their own ears.

I sincerely hope that a similar endeavour is embarked on next year to air more gems from our younger years. I’d like to see more teenage diary entries, but would recommend that the tone be kept light: Alex O’Bryan-Tear’s list of vices and regrets (written in code) sat a little uneasily with the rest as the audience weren’t quite sure whether to laugh at his rather morose reflections and overdose on paracetamol. On the whole, however, the direction and execution of Memoirs from my Moleskine was hilarious and brilliantly done. I shall now probably never be able to say ‘see a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck’ without mentally adding Kyle Turakhia’s final lines: ‘see a penny, put it down, in the sea you’ll sink and drown.’