Parole Parlate

Little Venice, Worcester

LAST month’s event was a resounding success with a strong contingent of imported Birmingham talent. This month, promoter Lisa Ventura focused on local talent, and produced a diverse and equally entertaining show.

Parole Parlate prides itself on diversity, and this month had a much more significant prose/ story telling element. As a form, it is much more difficult to shine in. The extended narrative is often read, there are no bite sized verses, and no chiming rhymes for the audience to hang onto. So the challenge is to create a story and performance that will engage.

Talia and then Allie Sewell opened up, the latter of whom was performing in public for only the second time, and who told an authentic story of a girls night out in Worcester. Her “Plumage versus privacy” dilemma on the dance floor was nicely put. If you have ever considered a trip to France or Wales then Tony Judge is your man, who offered his own take on the merits of the two countries.

Mark Ellis fell foul of modern technology when his e-reader failed to find the work he was hoping to read. What he did find, “Museum” was good, but the preparation does need to be as good as the material. The strongest of the “narrative” based performers was Richard Bruce Clay, a man for whom amplification is rarely required. Author of “ She’s Alone” and “Both”, he combined an extended prose passage with a couple of shorter poems “Drum & Bass” and “Poetry of Manly Virtue”. His confidence, presence, delivery and material shone throughout.

After the interval Lisa’s commitment to diversity was rewarded by the Jeffrey/Mason duo called “Hitchhiker”, a tribute to Richard Adams accompanied by guitars, which was slick, well sung and offered some welcome light and shade. Supporting the Headliner was the self-styled Bard of Worcestershire, Fergus McGonigal, whose considerable talents have been well documented in “Behind the Arras”.As usual he commanded the stage. His repertoire seemingly strengthens by the week. In addition to the tried and tested “Lawnmowers”, and “Ode on a Six String Guitar” we also had “the Truth About Love “ and “A Makeover”. The latter was a very clever and contemporaneous pastiche on Bin Laden’s assassination, the former a delightful whimsy taking in Auden, the Beatles, Marti Pellow and Roxy Music!

Headlining was Spoz, whose popularity can be gauged by the fact that he was back by audience demand from the previous month. Another “Behind the Arras” favourite, he did not disappoint his fans, drawing on a number of lesser performed gems, and staples from his collection:” The Day The Earth Grew Hair”. His politics came through in “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, his humour in “Rabbits Dressed as Chickens”, and his word play in “The Ballad of Brian the Balloon Boy”. But it was “Limerick versus Haiku” which showcased his talent. A brilliant idea, simply told, with wit and warmth, which neatly summarises his performance in the round.


The “find” of the evening however was someone whom I had not come across before, performed earlier on, and deserves a wider audience. Suz Winspear starts with two considerable advantages. Firstly, a striking Gothic fragile image, reminiscent of Siouxie Sue (surely they are not related?). Secondly, a wonderful ability to bring character to her speech, reminiscent of Debra Stephenson. My favourite poem was “A Seduction is Attempted”.

Few poets choose Ostend as their writing milieu, but not only did it provide the framework for a razor sharp and atmospheric piece, Suz later informed me that she has a collection of pieces on Ostend! She was at pains to point out that she does do some cheerful material, “Things to Make or Create” for example. I was struck both by the richly eclectic powers of observation in her poetry and the freshness of her viewpoint. A tribute to the Japanese earthquake victims “the Needle Spell” was inspired by a trip around a Rag Market, whilst a playfully malevolent piece on Murder, “Dear Bridget” ensures that I will be extra careful if Suz ever invites me around for tea! Do look out for her – and I await her “Ostend Special”.

The next Parole Parlate is on 2nd June, 7. 30pm and anticipates the Worcester Literary Festival which is being co-ordinated by Lisa Ventura. The evening will not only be worthy in itself, but it will also provide visitors a sneak preview of the best of what will be coming up from Lisa, and afford, no doubt, the chance to network with audience members who will be performing in and attending several of the events. 05-05-11
Gary Longden

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