Mourning Glory – Q&A with Charlie Markwick

After the success of his first show, ‘Orienteering’, Charlie Markwick returns to the Bristol Improv Theatre with his brand new performance ‘Mourning Glory ‘. We had the pleasure of chatting to him about the show, improv and his experiences that have inspired the show.

Hey Charlie! We’re thrilled to be hosting ‘Mourning Glory’ at the Bristol Improv Theatre in September! Can you give us an idea of what to expect? 

I’m thrilled at the prospect of coming back to the BIT it feels like coming home. Mourning Glory is a show about the struggle of my coming to terms with erectile dysfunction. On that journey I started to explore what it means to be male too. This will be a very personal view and inevitably there are aspects that will be intimate and challenging both for me to perform and others to hear. I guess it will definitely not be a family show but I’m hoping it won’t be salacious either.

How does this show relate to your previous show, Orienteering that you performed at the BIT in June 2018?

In a number of ways. Firstly they are both frank and open shows about my life and the challenges I’ve grappled with. Secondly in both I want to reach out to others to say “you’re not on your own”. They are also one man shows punctuated by my poetry. But there is a difference too. Orienteering was about how I learnt to care for another, Mourning Glory is about how I’m learning to care about myself.

For those who didn’t catch your last show, how has improv and performing helped you to process the moving content in your shows? 

Oh WOW improv, the BIT, and all the energetic improvisers who welcomed me with open arms have fundamentally transformed my life. I initially rocked up on the “Introduction To Improv” course with the amazing Andy and Steve to acquire skills to help me better care for my late wife who had dementia. It did this in spades.
My wife used to say that I was born without an embarrassment gene! I suspect she is right. However not being shy is a whole continent away from learning performance skills and there’s nothing like the challenge of standing on a stage and submitting yourself to performing the ignominious and eccentric ideas an improv audience can think up and throw at one! Lastly the way in which improv people and improv itself celebrate failure has been a game changer for me. It helped me realise that the most important thing is to try to step outside the prickly hedges round the chocolate box garden of my mind.

So moving on to ‘Mourning Glory’ (what a name!), why have you decided to make a show about erectile dysfunction?

Yes it’s a fantastic title isn’t. I wish I had thought of it! It was originally just “Morning Glory” until the irrepressible and fiendish Joe Coles suggested the change while shamelessly thrashing me at badminton!
Your question is an interesting one and one that is uncomfortable for me. I want to share my struggle with others but I live in dread that people might feel it is some sort of narcissistic enterprise. It isn’t. Firstly it’s one of the big taboo subjects for all sorts of reasons, that alone would be enough to make me step onto the stage. But in addition to that, all around us are the trappings of a highly toxic patriarchy. We as men have a responsibility to try and change that, so this will also be my meagre contribution to that challenge.

Have there been any moments you’ve found tricky during the process of putting the show together? Especially since it’s such a personal topic.

Oodles of them. But the biggest challenge is to be candid and at the same time not harm the people round me that I love and love me. Moving on from that there are a wealth of challenges in trying to create a one man show. I am fortunate with people around me, they seem to be infinitely tolerant when I ask them to listen and critique what I’m writing. I suspect it’s almost as hard for them as it is for me! Perhaps the scariest moment though was the moment I committed to the performance date, suddenly I was left with no choice but to get it done.

Why do you think men (and their partners) shouldn’t be so reticent when talking about ED? What benefits do you hope your show will bring about? 

Well despite the fact we live in a time that is so incredibly open compared to the era of my youth and middle age, people still find often find sexuality a challenge to talk about. In addition to that an erect penis is a powerful and toxic image in our society. Learning how to love who we are as men in that context is scary. I’m hoping that Mourning Glory will in some small way empower people to join that challenge. Also I want men and their lovers to know that it’s possible to see erectile dysfunction not as the end of something but the start of something new which has its own beauty and joy.

Without wanting to give away any spoilers, what’s the best advice you would give to someone suffering from ED? And what advice would you give to their partners?

For those with the condition I want to encourage them to learn to love who they are. For their partners: understand that the condition is not about the loss of a penetrative ability but about a fundamental change in a man’s psyche. One can learn to live a full and satisfying life without legs but there will always be a loss. Lastly for both men and their lovers: bask in the joy of being beautiful together.