Bang Said the Gun @ The Roebuck 03/11/11

-Reviewed by James Webster

I had pretty high expectations for Bang Said the Gun. I’d heard nothing but good about the event and the Bang team had only just won the ‘Page Match’ championship belt and I’m happy to say it exceeded even my high expectations.

What’s so special about it?

  • Well, as host Dan Cockrill says: it’s poetry for people who don’t like poetry, an event with a focus on entertainment and a raucous party atmosphere. The audience are provided with plastic milk bottles filled with chickpeas that you rattle to show your appreciation (or just rattle in time with the music before the show starts).
  • They make it look special too; their anarchic black and white branding up all over the place on posters, signs, table cloths, and projected onto the stage in a really entertaining animated video. They also provide everyone with a glowstick, a lovely gesture making the night feel half poetry/half rave.
  • Another interesting feature is the Cata-list: the audience member who’s given the duty of starting all cheering and applause. They list their name and responsibilities and record them for the audience on the projector screen. On the night we had:
  •  Name: Bree
  • Responsibilities: A few
  • Relationship: Kind of
  • Kids: No
  • Job: No

Another catchphrase is ‘poetry without the ponce’, which is a cool maxim, making poetry accessible and unpretentious.

The Raw Meat Stew is an intriguing feature; their slam/open mic, judged by one randomly selected audience member. The winner then gets a 10 minute slot at the next event, which is an excellent way to encourage and unearth new poetic talent (the only catch is that it seems the funniest/most entertaining poet usually wins, but then that fits their mission statement).


Hosting duties were split down the middle between Bang! founder Dan Cockrill and the newest member of the Bang! team Peter Hayhoe (a regular from Sage and Time and The Tea Box).

  • Dan’s a winning host, getting the audience all riled up; he’s got a real talent for getting the most out of an audience. He ably explains what Bang!’s all about and helps the show hit the ground running.
  • Peter Hayhoe is just lovely. He’s very engaging and his first poem about a Sainsbury’s Self-Checkout machine is very funny and gets you to feel sorry for the machine.
  • His other poem was pure smut that he could only read at Bang Said the Gun! On the new Countdown girl and how he wants to ‘Clity-fuck’ her. It was ridiculous, filthy and so much fun.

The rest of the Bang! team.

  • Martin Galton gave us a mixture of puerile entertainment, amusing hate (from his black book) and touching love (from his red book).
  • From a sweet poem on his son’s hands warming his bald head, to an amusing poem all the people he considers “Rude Bastards”, the only downside for me was a poem on how tiring it is to be middle class and I was never sure if I was listening to razor sharp satire or reinforcement of class stereotypes.
  • Rob Auton starts every gig in a big booming voice with the line: “Ladies and Gentlemen … these are the names that we give to the toilets.”
  • He’s the platonic ideal of Bang!’s style of ‘stand-up poetry’: great banter, stage presence and always funny. Lines like “There’ll be a theme tonight, which is that I will be the one saying the things” and poems playing off “my room” and “maroon” sounding similar, or on naming his son “dad”, are well executed and funny, but might not scratch the itch for those of us who look to poetry for depth.
  • Of course he’s also capable of surprising beauty like his piece on David Attenborough and wanting to live a life worthy of his voiceover.
  • Emma Jones won me over with ‘Shoreditch House’, a glitteringly witty caricature of meeting the private sector pretentious “twaterrati”. A hilarious take on modern-yuppyism.
  • And her ‘Yorkshire Schoolgirls on Night Out’ was a terrifically performed character piece that meanders from amusing to transcendent encounters in this delicious slice of northern teen-hood

The Raw Meat Stew

  • Kieren King. ‘Metal’er than Thou’ was on being judged for not looking metal enough, by metalheads knowing nothing about the music. The substance over style message is basic, but well expressed and delivered.
  • Edward Unique I’ve seen ‘To My Darling IPod’ before and Edward’s delivery’s improved, but he sorely needs a redraft to better distill the humour.
  • Dave Viney ‘Prambush’ was an amusing poetic anecdote on being the only couple at a bbq ‘yet to conceive’. The line: ‘can I carve not barren jut babyless into a string of sausages’ stuck with me.
  • Benny Jo Zahl‘s ‘Something’s Missing’ had a nice way with words that enlivened the ordinariness of a character who’d never had an imaginary friend.
  • Monkey Poet. His acrostic on politicians that spelled out “fucking wankers” was well put together, felt very natural and his energised delivery and anti-establishment feel won over the crowd.
  • Rod Iame on his inner drag queen Baby Love who he never quite has the confidence to release was equally emotive, fun and adorable. Could’ve done without the singing though.
  • Lettie McKey does a good job of sexualising chefs through their food. But I found said sexualisation a little weird and think suggesting all women want to be spoiled by a chef and that they “love choccie more than men” is sadly stereotypical.

Winner: Monkey Poet.

The Feature

  • Jem Rolls (a Brit over fromCanada) started with a nice philosophical number that encapsulated his view of the divine into his interaction with the audience. As he put it: “industrial strength sycophancy, but it’s not every day you’re deified is it?”
  • ‘The New English History Syllabus’ was biting satire, English view of history summed up as “we won, we won … ‘cos we’re the best and Johnny Foreigner was rubbish!”
  • ‘’e ain’t called Porky no more’ was a found poem and breathless snapshot, bouncing around the scene ofLondon.
  • The next ‘A Bit Shattered’ was a poem entirely made out of rhyming couplets of spoonerisms. It’s a really entertaining way to tell a story of a drunken night out and incredibly skilled wordplay.
  • His last ‘The Day Died Very Old’ on British tourism/“spectator queuing”. He details days spent ticking off lists of “must-do’s”, while outside is “life, teaming and local” that the tourists never get to see. Some wonderful phraseology, and a performance where the frustration dripped off him, made this an enthralling poem from an impressive performer.

Conclusion: Superbly entertaining poetry on almost all fronts, and only occasionally at the expense of depth. A fantastic raucous party of a poetry night.

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