Spoken Worlds

The Old Cottage Tavern, Burton-on-Trent

THE second event at The Old Cottage Tavern, “Spoken Worlds” is settling in now just fine at a venue to which it is well suited.

“Behind the Arras” has covered individual performances quite closely in recent months, this time I offer more of a view on the flavour of the occasion. One of the things which I most enjoy about open mic events is the uncertainty. Who is going to turn up? What are they going to do? I suspect that this frisson of excitement is shared in a somewhat different way by organiser Gary Carr!

“Spoken Worlds” offers what the name implies. Poetry, prose, monologues, book extracts, drama and comedy sketches, occasionally the spoken bit is stretched to accommodate the odd song or two too, but with the emphasis on the words- all on an open mic, ” first come first up” basis.

This time around, the amount of non-poetry had a far greater impact than usual. Colin Henchley set the standard here with a short play, “Sin”, that has been accepted for the second phase of a competition run by the Nottingham Playhouse. Performed by Colin himself and Mal Dewhirst, it is a dark, claustrophobic piece, set in the Second World War.

It was powerful, and worked well. Apparently part of the competition process may involve expanding it. How he achieves this will be interesting. I am a huge admirer of Colin’s writing and what always impresses is his attention to the mechanics of what he is writing. Each word and phrase is measured. Stretching this short play without redesigning it will be a challenge, but a challenge at which Colin will no doubt excel.


Author David Calcutt made his debut performance reading both poetry and an extract from his novel “Shadowbringer”, he has also had “Crowboy” and “Map of Marvels” published. “Shadowbringer” is a psychological supernatural thriller aimed at the teenage market, but can be enjoyed by inquisitive younger children and adults alike. The hero is Nathan, and his grandfather’s advice is to stay out of the attic. . .

David revels in character and this was wonderfully demonstrated in the extract he read. The two poems he read were river companion pieces.

The first, “Acheron”, one of David’s finest, told of his real life physical walk in that river in Greece. Acheron is the name of one of the five rivers that flow through the realm of Hades. The name means “river of woe”, and is often metaphorically used for Hades itself( “Here the shades are ferried across by Charon”, Virgil VI, 107). And as he walked, so reality and myth become inter twined:

“The stones that stared up at me from the riverbed
were the featureless stony faces of the dead. ”

His second poem recounted a visit to Stratford on the occasion of Shakespeare’s birthday (not when Shakespeare was alive, obviously, David isn’t that old!), it particularly made reference to the River Avon, but this time David mysteriously resisted the urge to jump in it. Lyrical and rich, it was the perfect companion to “Acheron”.

Terri and Ray Jolland specialise in light “Terry & June” styled comedy, and do it very well. Their comedy sketch about naturists skilfully played on stereotypes whilst being fresh and entertaining. Combine this with Mal Dewhirst delivering “Pop” in an American accent, Dea Costelloe singing in “Lament”, and Janet Jenkins reading from “Silver Words” and you have a sense of a very varied occasion.

The variety that evenings such as these offer is to be cherished. There is always something to surprise and delight. Even the regular established talent can trip you up, the normally comic Fergus McGonigal used his “previous” to sledgehammer dramatic effect by embarking on a poem about a schoolboy which we assumed was going to be light – but wasn’t. Fergus has been shortlisted as a prospective “Bard of Worcestershire”, all at “Spoken Worlds” and “Behind the Arras” wish him luck. “Spoken Worlds” next meets, Fri 17th June, 7. 30pm. 20-05-11

Gary Longden

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