Word & Sound

Worcester Arts Workshop Centre, Cellar Bar, Worcester

BILLED as “Midsummer Madness”, this was an event which was part of the Worcester Literary Festival and despite competing with two other events was well attended by both an impressive array of poetic talent and a good sized audience.

The venue itself is an excellent one in the city centre, incorporating The Bliss Cafe, which is licensed, and also offers freshly cooked Mexican food.

It provides a very agreeable pre-gig meeting area contributing considerably to the convivial atmosphere. Although in theory this open-mic event was vulnerable to the vagaries of who signs up on the night, in practice this was not an issue.

One glance around confirmed that the Worcestershire Poetic Literati Glitterati were out in force! Amanda Bonnick hosted the evening with an assured, relaxed, demeanor. The hosting task is not an easy one but Amanda made it seem so.

Normally the job is merely to offer some punctuation between performances, yet occasionally the host has to alter, or set, the mood, and she deftly delivered on both requirements. She also set a formidable standard by opening the evening too, from the edgy “Just Good Friends”, through the whimsy of “A Cat” to the closing “Glad”, a splendid celebration of the diversity of the union of relationships, which always looked strong on the page, but came alive in performance.

FAMILIAR FACES

Some familiar faces were in fine form. Fergus dominated the room as always with his sharp wit, acid tongue and shrewd observation, culminating in a highly entertaining warning on the dangers of smoking.

Sarah James enthralled with her erudite lucidity and a marvelous pastiche of Philip Larkin on the theme of “Children, they suck you up”.

Two poets in the first half were new to me, both impressed. Myfanwy Fox drew upon her experience running a Charity Shop to perform, “Found in his Things- a Theatrical Programme” a delightful reflective piece, then demonstrated her technical ability with a clever villanelle, “Hearts homesick for the Emerald isle”. Catherine Crosswell offered astute and humorous observations on theatrical life with “When All is Waned” and “Theatrical Kisses” but really cut loose with, “The Dangers of Running”, an extended piece of beguiling linguistic intricacy, tricking, teasing and engaging the listener by constantly morphing its subject matter. Was it about running? Was it about her mother? Was it about her? Was it a comedy, a satire or a piece of verite? You will have to listen to her to find out. I loved it.

After the break, two more familiar poets performed, both thematically linked by stagecraft. Suz Winspear’s magnificent gothic dress and exploding shock of black hair is an instant attention getter as soon as she takes to the stage.

Combine this with an impish self-effacing manner and idiosyncratic material, and you get a compelling performer. From love poetry like “Diamonds After Dark”, to comic gore with “Eyeball” she always has a twinkle in her eye and leaves the audience with a smile on their faces.

Sarah Tamar’s device was simpler; she sat to perform, which in itself set her apart from everyone else. From a physical performance perspective, this can be disadvantageous, but with her rewarding closing poem “I Want to Be” she proved that any performer is only as good as her material.

WELL WRITTEN TRIUMPH

A reflection on a middle aged woman’s perspective of young women’s aspirations, subject matter which could have been a cliché heavy minefield, proved to be a poignant light, well written triumph.

To close the evening poetically we had Jenny Hope, another poet new to me, who represented the distillation of all that was good from what had gone before. Jenny performed a collection of six sonnets entitled, “Six of the Flesh”. As Pippa Middleton has trademarked “that dress” so Jenny did with hers. Writing a good sonnet is no easy task, writing six is extraordinarily difficult, but that is what Jenny has achieved. Beautifully performed, the room went silent as she took us through the likes of “Orchard”, “The Morning After” “Picnic” and “Harvest”.

Her performance was sultry, sensual, and erotic, if Beyonce performed poetry, she wouldn’t stand a chance up against this. Jenny’s delivery was exquisite, the language both sparse and rich, crowning a splendid evening of high quality poetry and performance.

The shorter interludes as the evening progressed also warrant mention, Martin lambasted “Sir Fred”, Dot took us to a North Norfolk Beach, and Andy Green provided a series of hugely enjoyable songs, sung unaccompanied, to offer some light and shade to proceedings. Jenny Hope and Amanda Bonnick co-organise, more information on future events may be found on the “Word and Sound” Facebook page. 24-06-11.

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