Review: Jawdance 26/06/2013

-Reviewed by Lettie McKie– 


So, who runs Jawdance then?

It’s run by Apples and Snakes, the only organisation dedicated full time to performance poetry in the UK, who are veterans of the spoken word poetry event. Running nights up and down the country they give many poets each year a much needed platform for performance at a huge variety of venues.

And how does Jawdance fit in?

Jawdance is their most regular and popular London night at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. It’s a free monthly open mic night where featured slots are often given to emerging poets alongside more established acts. On the last Wednesday of the month this event is chilled out and welcoming, a perfect place to perform your poems for the first time.

And who hosted it?

Effortlessly charming poet GREEdS was this month’s host, and he built an instant rapport with the audience . His reactions to performances were outspoken, but kind, which helped to create a playful atmosphere and put performers at their ease.

He sounds cool. Who else was performing?

The line- up of this particular event was disappointing. When running a regular event it is inevitable that sometimes the performances will fall flat and unfortunately, on this occasion (perhaps because the audience was a bit thin on the ground) the usual buzz was missing.

And what was the open mic night?

The open mic sections of the night were entertaining, with some promising talent and other downright bizarre performances. Regular performer Lucy Carrington was completely in her own world, but looked like she was having a marvelous time. Sophie Cameron is an accomplished poet, but her graphic language and overtly sexual imagery teeters on the edge between acceptably subversive and just plain tasteless. D’links stood out as one of the best performers of the night, her haunting, image rich poetry is ethereal in her smooth southern American accent and she pulls off lines such as “both killer and maker of dreams” that could so easily have bombed in the hands of a less soulful performer. She brought a friend up to sing along to her poetry, although his voice was good it was distracting from her deeply felt and thought provoking verse. The last poet of the evening, Torrey, was also very good, bringing the subdued audience to life with an hilarious poem about growing old (and having sex) disgracefully.

A nice mix then, so how were  the feature acts?

The first featured act of the night was an energetic duo called Ready Meal and Scratch Card (of the band: Anal Beard). They married quick quips, idiosyncratic storytelling and multiple characters in a set that had the potential to be very entertaining. However, their odd choice to ‘sing’ most of their poems in monotone, out-of-tune voices was dissatisfying. It would have been more interesting to put their poems to music or at least a recognisable tune, but instead their voices carried very little tangible rhythm and were grating to listen to.

The second feature, Paloma Heindorff was much more compelling; her impassioned set combined softly spoken delivery with story poems about love and other stuff drawn from everyday life, simple and unaffected. But I feel Paloma could improve by working on building more of a rapport with her audience and on developing more variety of pace.

But there’s more to Jawdance than just live poetry, right?

One of the best elements of Jawdance is their film screening slots. Apples and Snakes have recently been working with artists on a project called Wordsmiths and co-creating poetry videos. Jess Green’s film was a highlight of the evening. It shows her performing a poem that tells the story of a complicated friendship in a charming, raw and energetic style. She can’t keep still on the mic but her earnest and heartfelt verse is very charming.

So how was the last feature?

The last feature of the night was Chicago born Dominique Chestand. Although she is obviously a natural performer, with great comic timing her work itself was slightly disappointing. While she was much very entertaining when chatting with the audience before and in-between her pieces, the poems themselves were a bit hit and miss. She took a ukulele on stage, but only used it sparingly to create a beat, which seemed unnecessary. Although elements of her set were very interesting, for example a poem made up almost completely of noises rather than words that was reminiscent of beat box, some of the poetry was lacklustre in comparison to her bouncy personality. Although she has a great onstage presence this act was let down by some directionless content.

A mixed night then, but what’s your general opinion of Jawdance?

Jawdance is one of the best open mic nights around, professionally run and highly accessible. Although this night was not particularly successful it is credit to Apples and Snakes that they take risks with who they book, you never quite know what you’re going to get…

If you like the sound of the night then the next Jawdance  is coming up on Wednesday 24 July.