– Reviewed by Dana Bubulj –
Host: Dan Simpson who was congenial and subtle as Jeeves, introducing acts and letting them take the limelight. His two poems were comic and warmed the crowd: from the chronically silly “Place in the Sun”, (which isn’t much fun, truth be told) to “Ride”, which used the fourth wall like a trellis: playing with “a lazy stereotype” objecting to zebras “coming over here, taking out metaphors from hard working animals, like a badger or some such”.
The Night itself: Was definitely enthusiastically attended, to the degree that all space in the location had transformed into a crowd in variations of sitting and standing. DJ Able performed during breaks that gave the event a trendy bar atmosphere. The performing poets tended towards short, punchy lines of varying efficacy.
- Emma Jones has a great stage presence and uncanny ability to take on accents that bring characters to life in fast paced and exhilarating poems. Performing a mix of old favourites and the newly written, her exuberant delivery had the audience in stitches, following every word.
- Her Love Song to Hull was particularly memorable, chronicling a teenage girl’s night out, from club to someone’s home to being blissed out on a pill (“I’m made of light and diamonds and songs”), Jones’ delivery transporting us to every moment.
- GCSE, drawing from teaching experience, was a nice take on SE London youth vocabulary (“you should ‘low it, Miss”), as her students tell her of the things they’d rather be doing than Drama.
- Another old poem was to Shoreditch House (reviewed previously), taking on the home turf of the “twaterrati” in a personable manner (“fuck me! This is a pricy venue!”).
- Her newest poem was more political. Raging against Michael Gove with her “best angry teacher death stare”, she responds to his academy opening speech by “[plotting] to train children to take back what’s theirs” from a world unfairly stacked against them. Truly a passionate teacher’s lament for the children who grow between “the gaps in the curriculum”.
- Sabrina Mahfouzis fantastic at creating poems that encapsulate crowds of disparate people reacting to the same stimulus. Starting with a poem set in the changing room of a nightclub, she channels several women using “down another hole”, adjusting their belts with varying aims, from the frantic to the sultry, crossing oceans in accents.
- In an excerpt from Dry Ice (her solo show, sadly just finishing at the Bush Theatre), she revisits knowledge of strippers describing the various types of customer with unerring accuracy, conjuring them in our minds, from the “knobs with families”, the stereotypical skin-crawling creeps who call them “good girl”, the millionaire dream “removed from real world” who “just likes to give”, and the young twats who ask what their mums think of what they do (they’ve “got a nice girl at home like you”). Such specimens of mankind.
- Mark Grist has a down-to-earth quality about his poetry and delivery that makes him appealing to his audiences. He often has an accessible humour, effectively using self-imposed poetical restrictions like rhyme schemes (“the hottest of all the gingers” is rhymed with “that list what was Schindler’s” at one point) or his (quite impressive) univocalism. (His popularity on Youtube probably speaks for itself in this regard).
- Of the poems he performed tonight, my favourite was his enthusiastically performed The Fens (using only words with ‘e’), a surreal tale of a couple camping with a horror-twist ending, where a “beefy yet nerdy” Stephen becomes an entrée for his beloved.
- Girls Who Read was a sweet poem used as a response (in the spirit d’escalier) to being asked what he goes for in a girl, again has humour shining through (classics are lauded because they’re “dirty”). While it could be argued that he’s just objectifying a different aspect of women than their “tits or arse”, he keeps it insightful and comic.
- He also performed his poem about Beth Builder, a formative unrequited crush in primary school. He does well to encapsulate the bluntness of children with her voice, like nails on chalkboard, as she tells him to “piss off, cabbagehead”.
- Zia Ahmed had a Milton Jones-esque take on popular expressions and pop culture references (as diverse as Monty Python, Byker Grove and the funny bone books). With a hectic narrative of short, rhyming phrases, he effectively destroyed the comfort zones of familiar expressions (Um Bongo’s jingle led to child soldiers).
- Jill Abram attempted to conjure the scenes visible from a train’s window in ‘On the 10.22’. Using a list format, there could have been more of a coherent transition from the urban to the rural via the gradual suburbia (“sundials, aerials, satellite dish”). As it was, the journey seemed indistinct.
- Jack Dean‘s fantastic”Let There Be Light” was a fiery defence of youth and life from “hipster angels”. Concluding powerfully, (“It’s our generation to fuck up”), it’s a love letter to the “vast, pointless gorgeousness of it all”.
- Billy Hicks took us on a whistle-stop tour of pop-cultural signposts for those who were born in the 80s but children of the 90s. He listed age appropriate nostalgia bait like Super Nintendo, listening moodily to Keane as a teen, and discovering himself in his twenties in a cheerful and highly personable manner.
- Sarah Chapman had never performed before and sadly, it showed. It would have been stronger had she stuck to fewer poems; as such, the poems were over before they began. The most substantial, “Since We’ve Met“, had the narrator growing distant through insecurity about a woman with a “river-filled brain” who can be glamorous despite living “in a shithole”.
- Janek Gossetthad an interesting take on Icarus, plummeting from the sky having seen a “glimpse of god”. An adrenaline fuelled fall, filled with dense imagery, that questioned the truth of narrative and gave Icarus a new life: phoenix-like, with “wings earned through strife and dreams of change”.
- Richard Tyrone Jonesperformed a poem from his show, RTJ has a Big Heart (touring this year, preview in June), called “Heartstopper”. With good modulation, his rhythm matched the state of his heart: slowed by drugs and sped by adrenaline. (it also had echoes of sitcom humour: the cardiac arrest was brought on by a particularly sexy student nurse.)
- Da Poet‘s “The Significance of Being Insignificant” was absolutely fantastic. With fluent and passionate wordplay, he urged us to set aside the differences of the Abrahamic religions and become a “resisting filament resisting belligerent militants” together, not divided by faith or race. A highlight of the night.
- Oh Standfast‘s delivery (example) reminded me somewhat of the Wizard of Skill. Short phrases, repetition and shouting made the randomness and mundanity almost absurd, with a mildly threatening undercurrent in the refrain (“check you out with your…”), which was received with laughter.
It was a lively and enjoyable night, so do check their facebook page for when it’s next on. I believe it’s their anniversary in July, so that should be something special.