– reviewed by Lettie McKie –
Come Rhyme with Me: a tasty combo!
The literary world is full of wining combinations. Boarding school stories and wizardry, pride and prejudice, Shakespeare and the iambic pentameter; but one pairing that you would definitely not expect is spoken word poetry and Caribbean food. For the last three years, however, that is what poets Dean Atta and Deanna Rodger have been serving up regularly in London with resounding success (so much so that a year ago they opened up a sister show in Brighton).
Tickling their guests’ literal and metaphorical taste buds, they have developed a popular night of poetic entertainment where the acts are presented as courses in a meal. After open mic Appetizers three feature acts are carefully selected to represent starter, main course and dessert. When asked about the event Dean said:
‘It’s about bringing people together, good food and company. We’re so happy that we’ve established an entertaining event that we would want to come to ourselves. People come and then come back with all their friends, its celebratory and definitely not just for poets!’
Dean’s description proved accurate at this upbeat, intimate and friendly night. He and his co-host Deanna make another successful combination, having natural onstage chemistry, cracking jokes and putting the audience at their ease. It’s plain they are both very confident performers and their double act is a delight to watch in itself. They built a comfortable rapport with the audience despite the distraction of the steaming plates of grilled chicken and the added complications created by a very small stage isolated by a thick red curtain.
Catering for a variety of poetic palates …
The open mic ‘Poetry tapas’ was fast paced and welcoming with a variety of seasoned open mic performers and first timers. The Wizard of Skill, probably the most dedicated open mic’er in London, was particularly good. His poem ‘dear diary’ was an effervescent stream of consciousness, raising concerns about political issues he feels strongly about, weaving thoughts together with his own unique blend of imagery and wisecracks. Feisty Gemma Rogers played a hilarious song on her ukulele about trying, and failing, to remain on the wagon. She is a natural storyteller, immediately making a connection to the audience and her witty lyrics were very easy to relate to. First time open mic’er Amy showed great promise with a raw poem full of quick quips and good rhymes. She delivered a poem about getting into the London poetry scene, but to improve she could tap into a more wide reaching subject matter finding her own stories to tell. Another first time open mic performance by Nairobi was very funny, and she deserves bonus points for successfully rhyming ‘ overrated’ with ‘emaciated’, in a poem about being bored with conventional attitudes to female beauty.
Serving up some deliciously smooth spoken word …
After the break the courses continued with the three featured acts in a row. This format choice was particularly successful, as it completely kept the audience’s attention, which can sometimes be difficult when too many poets are included. By keeping the open mic to 6 places and then moving onto the feature acts, Dean and Deanna have created a night that runs smoothly and keeps people engaged.
Yrsa Daley-Ward was the starter with a carefully constructed, gentle and passionate set. The depth and breadth of her imagery was particularly interesting, she has a great ability to describe things in such detail that you can almost feel, taste and see them. Haunting lines stood out to be remembered and she used musical back drops to create an immersive and focused atmosphere during some of her pieces.
Paul Lyalls, the meaty main, had a completely different style and take on poetry in general. He introduced his poetry with funny stories and told us that he is the only poet to have an official Latin motto: ‘seize the afternoon’! His comedic style was generally effective, but sometimes it detracted from the poetry itself because he talked so much during the set. His poetry is also quite conversational, so sometimes it was hard to distinguish between the pre-amble and the poem. One of his best poems was a pastiche of the Lord’s Prayer, changing the allusions from God to the fashion industry.
The dessert was Simon Mole who effortlessly delivered an impassioned and professional set. His poem about coping with the death of a close friend was particularly compelling. He also used music as a back drop to this work and combined it with an image rich, abstract poem which was sensitive and heartfelt. His poems are witty and charming, he takes overlooked details of everyday life, like making bread or cycling down the street and focuses in on them like a photographer.
And the overall flavour?
Come Rhyme with Me is a regular and popular night because it combines a relaxed, friendly atmosphere with great food, a dynamic hosting duo, slick format and high quality line up.
The next London show is this Friday June 28th with Mike Galsworthy, Kayo Chingonyi, Peter Hayho and Sarah Redington.