Edinburgh Reviews Day 4, part 2: They Came With Outer Script, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word and Flea Circus Open Slam

– reviewed by James Webster and Dana Bubulj –

Last week we reviewed a selection of Edinburgh Previews. We enjoyed them so much that this week Sabotage’s Performance Editor James Webster, and curmudgeonly reviewer Dana Bubulj, are up in Edinburgh taking in the Fringe Festival. While they’re there, they are trying to review as much Spoken Word as they possibly can, as well as a few other things that catch their eye (and fall vaguely within our purview, e.g. no all-body yodelling)

They Came With Outer Script

This improv show from Asterix Theatre was full of amused giggles, ridiculous guffaws and the occasional big belly laugh. Performing an improvised B Movie they used audience suggestion, amusingly daft sound effects and a small child’s balloons to craft a suitably silly story about firefighters, arson and princesses.

While some of the improv was shaky, and the performers definitely could have been more confident and quicker on their feet, they had enough imaginative improvising to tease a lot of comedy out of the ideas. If they’d been a bit more vocally assertive, stumbled a bit less and the ‘director’ had controlled the proceedings with a bit more incisiveness it could’ve been great. But their enthusiasm and self-referential humour means it’s still a lot of fun.

Star Rating: 3/5

The Came With Outer Script is on at 1.05pm at Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, 3rd-11th August.


Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word

The brainchild of Fay Roberts, organiser of Cambridge’s Hammer & Tongue chapter, the point of Other Voices is to showcase the voices that are seldom represented in the Spoken Word genre. It was really cool to be a gig where the female performers outnumbered the middle class white men, and the format of 2 guest poets (Lucy Ayrton and Ruth E Dixon), open mic and then a feature poet (Mark Grist), all with Fay’s smooth hosting and some of her delectable poetry.

Fay’s jazzy beat-style opening was a lovely lyrical slice of nostalgia, while her ‘I Want More’ is a right-on indictment of how women’s magazines attempt to dictate appearance and lifestyle (‘I’d rather buy drums than a chemical peel’), with nice nods to anti-consumerism and exploring the idea of media using such magazines as a smokescreen to distract from other issues. Her final piece, using audience clapping in a 4/4 beat, was also ace, as Fay hit the beats with staccato lyricism, crafting an electric poem of streets and crowds.

Lucy Ayrton performed ‘I Want Never Gets’, following an ever-climbing progression of the lessons we learn growing up as we realise the world gets ever more unfair (‘and then I learned the law, so I didn’t need to tell right from wrong any more’), and summarising the ways in which she wants more from the world, covering a variety of issues insightfully and amusingly. While ‘Missing You’ was a sweet and clever little poem with some lovely lines (‘I can craft a text message with the love of a jeweller’) and her poem ‘The Nightingale’ is a haunting and powerful story of ‘the sweetest affair’ between a lady and a knight, complete with her silky singing voice. Lucy’s show Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry is also on at the Banshee Labyrinth until the 14th (reviewed here).

Ruth E Dixon had some amusing poems on her children, ‘School Hour’s Breakdown’ was very funny with some great lines (‘Look at me, I’ve done a wee on the kitchen floor! Look at me, I’m three!’). She introduced her final poem by wondering why lots of her colleagues think she’s a feminist and after the poem I honestly wasn’t sure myself. ‘A Weather Girl’s Got to Have Tits’ was a sad piece of objectification, the playful tone and language of which (‘with the help of her rack, this cold spell’s less cack’) couldn’t make up for the way it reduced women to their bodily parts. It felt like something out of a Lad’s Mag and didn’t sit with the event’s mission statement at all.

Open Mic

There was only one open mic’er on the day, and that was Alec, who did an entertaining poem about bus banners arguing about religion, and Edinburgh’s new tram arriving to be hailed as a saviour.


Mark Grist (whose solo show Rogue Teacher we have already reviewed and is well worth seeing) gave a really entertaining set, his grubby love poem to the city of Peterborough (‘enjoy romantic nights out at the dog track’) is a lot of fun, with his affectionate vision of a town that may not be amazing, but is clearly his. His piece on upper-class condescending attitudes towards teaching is also a great piece, a big screw you to people who believe the idea of Broken Britain, and also an inspiring take on the effort teaching takes, but the important changes it can make. An amazingly sleazy and grimy sounding character piece followed, on male attitudes towards girls in clubs, and it was so effective I felt the need to shower afterwards, while his final poem ‘A Girl Who Reads’ is one that I have some problems with, but it’s still very well performed and a great tonic to Dixon’s earlier sexism.

For this style of show it seems unfair to judge just by the performers of the day, so we’re giving two scores: one for the show’s format and mission, the other for the day’s performers.

Performers’ Star Rating: 3/5 (Ruth E Dixon dragged it way down)

Show Star Rating: 4/5 (really well executed show with an admirable mission statement and FREE SWEETS)

Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word is on at 2.50pm at the Banshee Labyrinth 4th-25th August (not Wednesdays), FREE


Flea Circus Open Slam

Another Tea Fuelled Art creation, this event was fun and fast-paced, embracing the slam format with gusto.

Lucy Ayrton popped up again (fresh from Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry) and hosted with slightly flustered efficiency, handling the audience with practiced charm. She also acted as ‘sacrificial poet’, and her ‘I Don’t Hate Men, Just You’ was a tongue-trippingly amusing and perceptive defence of feminism.

The Slam

Kevin Acott’s poems had nice lines (‘cherry breath of encouragement’) but he wasn’t practiced enough and his two pieces (one on fancying a riding instructor, the other on a ponderous park walk) were a little overlong and lacked focus. Score: 14

Robert Alcott’s piece the Spanish occupy movement (15th of May) was a cool piece on the unglamorous reality and frustrated potential of revolution, but it felt like it never got going and a forgetful performance didn’t help. Score: 16

Hannah Elwick’s poem to a lover, continually promising to better herself was awesomely sad, her repeated ‘I promise’ providing a continued punch to each self-erasing declaration. Could’ve done with a bit more to drive the point home. Score: 19

Henry Raby is currently performing Letter to the Man from the Boy at the Underbelly. His piece reimagining a breakup as various different film genres was clever, well-performed and sadly amusing. Score: 22

Matthew West’s ‘Anametics’ was a great exercise in wordplay and language, crafting a 26-line piece, in which each line uses only words starting with that letter of the alphabet, about animals. Great performance, but felt pointless to me. Score: 23

Result: West wins by a point, but Raby goes through to the final on the 14th as West won’t be in Edinburgh.

Feature: Richard Tyrone Jones, the poetic giant who organised the entire Spoken Word section of the Fringe gave a set filled with surreal humour, occasional filth (especially his poem on Richard Dawkins’s sex life) and a poem called ‘Heartstopper’ (from his show Richard Tyrone Jones has a Big Heart) that had a dangerous frenetic energy and brilliantly painful language to it.

Performers’ Star Rating: 3/5

Show Star Rating: 4/5

The Flea Circus Open Slam is on at 7.3opm at Banshee Labyrinth, 4th-14th August, FREE!

3 thoughts on “Edinburgh Reviews Day 4, part 2: They Came With Outer Script, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word and Flea Circus Open Slam

  1. Re the review of Ruth Dixon’s set in Other Voices- I saw her work for the first time in her show Reclamation at the Banshee Labyrinth the following night. (She’s on with fellow Hull poets Joe Hakim and Mike Watts). The Weather Girls poem didn’t come across as reductive of women, or “Lad’s Mag” but as an ironic comment on those tendencies- done as a comic poetic monologue. The intelligence and wit of the rest of her set helps make that clear too. She mentioned this review- which helped give the poem an extra frisson…

    • Ok, that’s interesting, when I saw it the set-up definitely did not give the impression of any irony, it seemed rather to be a disavowing of feminism, which sat badly with the theme of the event. Perhaps it was just badly explained on the day?

      Glad the review gave the poem a lift ;)

  2. Pingback: Top Spoken Word Moments of 2012 « Sabotage

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