This year the Lichfield Festival has been a curious affair, seemingly top heavy with high ticket out-of –town performers, and light of local talent.
Poetry, save for the appearance of Carol Ann Duffy, has been poorly served. That is a huge shame. Thriving poetry groups operate in Lichfield, Polesworth and Burton with several more close by. Performance poets with a national reputation also perform across the Midlands.
So the appearance of Lichfield Poets at the Lounge cafe and the George Hotel, both in Bird St, for two, free, twenty minute performances, was welcome to all enthusiasts of spoken word- and they did not disappoint.
Performing poetry to an audience of the curious, who are free to leave at any moment, is no easy task. Lichfield poets tackled this by sheer weight of numbers. There were seven performers reading quick fire poems that rarely lasted more than a minute or so woven together by a central presenter who introduced the performers and poems to keep things moving at a brisk pace, and it worked. The art is not one of literary brilliance but of a neat idea and a memorable turn of phrase to hook the audience.
Janet Jenkins opened wisely with the unifying call of “We Want to Be Together” whilst later entertaining with tales of a copulating frog stunned by a mobile phone which she had dropped, and some errant false teeth. The zeitgeist of a mid summer’s downpour was captured by Jan Arnold with “Two Umbrellas”, and she shamelessly flirted with her “Little Black Dress of Desire”.
Two poets stood out with their humour. Brian Asbury has a robust acting resume and his confidence and projection held him in good stead with “The Aardvark and the Squid” and his “Peculiar Pet (pterodactyl)”. Stephanie Knipe maintained the surreal by warning us of the sentience of Wheelie Bins and the dangers of sending gateau through the post, incorporating content which David Lynch might deem preposterous.
“Naughty Naughty” was a thoughtful vignette on what it is like to be a small child and was well delivered by Marjorie Neilsen. Poems about relationships are meat and drink for poets, but Val Thompson was fearless in performing “A Well Worn Marriage” with her husband in the audience!
Perhaps she was hoping that forgetfulness, as explored in her sharply observed “Automatic Recall” would come into play? Yet it was her evergreen “Stylist Theresa” which for me has the authenticity and simplicity of Beatles Lyrics circa “Penny Lane and “Eleanor Rigby”, which shone. The two sets closed with “Lichfield”, an impressive, evocative cinq cinquaine, which had been written, and was performed, collaboratively.