12/03/2012, Leamington Spa
-Reviewed by Claire Trévien–
Venue and Atmosphere
The Sozzled Sausage is one of those faux-decadent bars with fairy lights, rustic tables and curly-footed upholstery. As it was a Monday, the venue was empty, save for one of its side rooms in which the open mic took place. The room itself was awkwardly crowded by unnecessarily large tables that led my friends and me to sit in bus-like fashion, one behind each other. It became rapidly full, leading to other audience members sitting outside of the room.
The setting also meant that, in spite of a microphone, noise from the bar frequently polluted the readings. However, what it lacked in practical charms, it more than made up for in friendliness. The mostly middle-aged regulars were all too happy to strike up conversation and make potential performers feel at ease.
PGR is very clearly a labour of love run by soon-to-be-wed couple George and Fran, and supported by Kim while they spent the last four months in India. It has been running for half-decade and has a well-oiled set-up: twelve open mic spots divided by an interval, as well as a guest poet, who performs on either side of the interval. George compered the evening and was a warm and entertaining host, quick to welcome newcomers to the stand, and often introducing acts with a little anecdote or amusing story to give the spectator a context. Thus, Jean-Pierre is a ‘painter of words’, while he self-deprecatingly called forth his own reading as ‘doggerel’.
The Open Mic
As you might expect, humorous poetry was prevalent throughout the evening. Highlights included John Mason’s surreal take on the ‘what if’s’, and John Myers’ increasingly hysterical series of poems on giving blood and dreaming of food.
Unsuitable dating was a theme of the evening, which began with Rosemary’s ‘Single and 60’, a poem that described the seven dwarfs of dating: ‘he lived with his mother / now she was too frail / he wanted another’ (Sneezy). The emphasis on humour, while useful for keeping a drinking audience’s attention, was all too often an end in itself rather than the means to express anything deeper. This is fine, of course, as proved by Rose Biggin’s brilliant ‘Complete Berks’, which took us through Shakespeare’s entire play output thanks to an ‘I walked into a bar and I ordered a Shakesbeer’ narrative.
There wasn’t just original poetry, Augustus sang ‘You’ve got nothing to look forward to’ and other amusingly eeyore-esque songs on love and the insides of bars. Jean-Pierre Kunzler (whose voice eerily resembles Peter Serafinowicz’s in his appearance in Black Books) read from Edward Fitzgerald’s translations of Omar Khayyan’s poems. Pauline movingly shared with us the poetry of her friend, who died 26 years ago, which included the wonderfully succinct ‘The Housewife’s Nearly Tantrum’.
The Guest Poet: Mstr Morrison
Mstr Morrison has only been performing for ten months but is already stacking up the accolades; most recently he won the Cambridge Hammer and Tongue Slam. He also wore a very good hat on the night. It’s easy to see what makes him so popular, he was a charismatic and sweetly charming performer, and his narratives were equally endearing with their pin-balling rhymes.
However, the content of his poems did not always live up to their delivery, suffering at times from an overtly preachy slant, as in ‘Ask Mona Lisa’ when he called to halt the hogwash and the spoonfeeding. Elsewhere, in ‘Strings and Stars’, the use of multiple characters helped to evade these pitfalls in spite of its clear anti-capitalist agenda. Seen from the point of view of a teacher, it gave voices to a primary school child romanticizing a homeless musician ‘How can I experience and fully appreciate the delights of nature with paper walls and a roof between us?’ His poem ‘Danny Boy’ was another highlight, an attempt to make things right with a brother he’d bullied in his youth: ‘if only my only crime was igniting your laughter’. While in ‘Perfection’, he quoted Oscar Wilde, so really, it’s hard to have anything negative to say.
PGR is a fun, unchallenging night of spoken word poetry and music in a supportive atmosphere. It’s a good place to start if you want to test a new piece or dip your toes into the poetry scene, and many towns could do with its equivalent. An event you should definitely endorse if you live in the area.