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)
‘Why do a free show? Fuck it, it’s a recession, why not?’ is the cheerful explanation Phill Jupitus gives for his involvement in this year’s PBH Free Fringe.
You get a nice sense of Jupitus’s history in the show, he starts performing his first ever poem from memory and his twisted tale of the much-beloved characters from the Beano having grown up (‘Biffo is well into anarchy now’) was super-entertaining.
He follows this with some funny anecdotes, superbly performed, about his early work as a civil servant and trade union organiser (apparently it’s notoriously difficult to organise mothers working part-time when you’re 19), and about the week he met both Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones in adorably fanboyish fashion.
The following poem ‘He Loves You’ on McCartney was lovely in its use of Beatles references to couch the poem in sweet nostalgia, and Phil comes off as amusingly awkward and cack-handed.
While his anecdotes are funny and memorable, he thankfully gets on with the poetry soon enough, and his poems are alternately insightful, silly, and at points hilarious (especially his Blade Runner parody entitled ‘How Rutger Hauer Helped Me Lose Weight’, which caused curmudgeonly reviewer Dana Bubulj crack up). I especially enjoyed his mournful, but chaotic piece in memory of the Woods brothers, those absurd rock music legends (‘laughter is their language’).
The performance of his poems could have been better, but they were otherwise very well done, and his practiced patter and the excellent performance of his linking anecdotes more than made up for it. A great show (and free!).
Star Rating: 4/5
Phill Jupitus: Porky the Poet in 27 years on, is at The Jam House, 4pm, 4th-25th (not 13th) August
Ben Mellor’s new show is a “journey across human anatomy” with some slick poetry set to music and a particularly impressive political and lyrical bent on topics that (in other hands) could have been puerile. Give it a day or two and he’ll have it all off by heart, but despite occasional glances to the script when I saw it, it was a professional and enjoyable show.
He kicks off with a fantastic introduction to how versatile the body is in common expressions: he “welcomes [us] to his neck of the woods” in a gloriously confident radio voice that continues the theme wittily to draw in the audience.
His political poems are the strongest pieces: The fabulous ‘HeadState’, explores the mind’s power and disturbances with a fantastic analogy of politics, governments where centre-left and centre-right both fuck the poor, where “top-down mental structures collapse mental economy”. ‘Tax Pastiche’ for the Digestive system deals with ‘Pastygate’ and is a fantastically acerbic political broadcast in the style of a food ad, full of “saccharine additives to make [the govt] look less unsavoury”. The Mammary Glands are treated to “News in Briefs”, inspired by the somewhat amusing change of speech bubbles in recent years on Page 3 girls to spout a political standpoint (Tim Ireland discusses this at Bloggerheads), which was a nice take on sexism and objectification.
The Heart continues a political bent more subtly, set in a “utopia realised” where there’s no hunger and the energy crisis is solved; love is the only scarce commodity. With no way to reproduce it, love falls into decline, reserves bought up (“a third off hugs!”) and the character must face a world where all the love’s used up. This is powerful, however, the horrific alternative given, where “adultery ceased to be taboo”, and apathetic teens were “casually [calling] abortion clinics if late”, is massively slut-shaming; unfortunate given that the world-building would work well enough without it.
Without this focus, the work is less powerful, although still enjoyable. The weakest piece was ‘Face Look’, a palindromic cinquain, playing on the beauty of symmetry. The Diaphragm is given a rhythm of breathing through the layering of his own voice, but the built backing track & explanation of how breathing works took too long for the eventual poem and it was perhaps the least polished work. But it had some nice ideas, such the assertion that “breath remains fragile as freedom”.
Of course, we end on Genitalia, although he promises there will be more as the run continues. His poem “Naming Of Parts”, is a take on the Henry Reed poem, which shares its name with a 1992 study of genders and their respective colloquialisms: from the military-like penis-euphemisms to a new-agey place of “lady gardens”. It could perhaps have done without the female side at all, given that the play on gun-maintenance and phallic imagery was a rife enough playground (“slide rapidly, back and forwards…”) and having both sides made it unnecessarily gender essentialist.
The show is professional and well put together, with a strong sense of narrative. The set pieces are mostly excellent and the informative and humorous patter between them makes this easily a 4 star show though with minor changes could score 5. Also, it’s free, so there’s no excuse not to see it.
Star Rating: 4/5
Ben Mellor’s Anthropoetry is on at Fingers Piano Bar at 7.50pm, 5th-17th August (no Mondays)
Previously reviewed here by Sabotage, Ayrton’s show about the power of fairytale remains an astute dissection of how the narratives that we tell children affect their expectations of the world around them, and thusly change the world we create for them.
From beginnings explaining why you might use stories to illustrate dangers (if you lived thousands of years ago you’d want to warn children about wolves, but neither telling them nor introducing them to a wolf quite do the job), she takes you on a journey that takes in the printing press, Disney and one and a half songs.
While the show has a distinctly feminist leaning, it does so in a discursive and open way that conveys her point of view without preaching, always backing her narrative up with examples and poems to illustrate her meaning.
The poems are smooth, intricate and gorgeous, with a lot of variety (and evocative backing tracks). From childhood warnings to more adult and heartbreaking dangers and superbly empowering tales (including an interactive create-your-own feminist fairytale), they made me laugh and sent shivers down my spine. My favourite on the day was her final piece that had all the power, energy and enjoyment of magic.
Star Rating: 5/5
Lucy Ayrton: Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry is on at 6.20pm, 4th-14th August, at Banshee Labyrinth and it’s FREE.