Bilston Voices has one of the most loyal non-performing audiences in the Midlands, there is no fleshing out of attendance by open-mic performers here. They come to hear a set bill. Yet that does not mean that organiser Emma Purshouse rests on her laurels. This month, she ran a Ghost Writers initiative. This enables writers to have their work performed anonymously by volunteer performers. It also offers writers who eschew performing , either from preference or lack of confidence, a platform to have their work played in front of an audience. The result was an unusually diverse collection of poetry, monologue and drama.
By far the most challenging was a piece written by Bill Dixon, which he co-performed with Ros Trotman, entitled Midsummer Night. A surreal Gothic nightmare, it features two voices performing simultaneously and resembles freeform jazz for spoken word. Having a male and female voice is vital as the difference in pitch makes the conflicting voices easier to pick out. As the story unfolds it is impossible to follow the poem in total, only those parts you choose to follow from the individual performers . You are constantly having to decide who to listen to with your attention veering wildly as keywords compete for your attention. As a consequence each performance is unique, as you will never hear the same sequence of words in the same order. Brilliantly and daringly conceived, Bilston Voices should be proud to have showcased such an innovative concept.
Another extended piece ,by Jill Tromans ,really caught my ear. A comedy drama set in the Glassmaker’s Arms with some locals. Funny, entertaining and sharp it was one of the most enjoyable comedy readings I have heard for a long time, ably assisted by some very good spoken performances from the cast. Although written, and performed, in strong Black Country dialect I believe this has potential on a much broader stage. The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen Pet were set in the North East, the Liverbirds and Boys From the Blackstuff in Liverpool – why not a comedy series from the Black Country? The characterisation was strong, the dialogue witty. If Jill can produce a body of work around this core, she may be on to something.
Nick Pearson is an Offa’s Press poet who read extensively from his collection Made in Captivity. I had never seen him before, I liked him very much. Casual, unpretentious and unassuming he breezed through a set of concise wry material that engaged and amused. Shallow Grave skilfully explored all those computers seized by the Met from news international and Coming Clean raised a chuckle from all who have experienced an Annual Development Review. The thinly veiled sexual innuendo of Final Frame was a fitting set finisher. Yet my admiration for Nick was sealed by one line, when he dared to rhyme “Brillo” with “Amarillo” – genius.
The change in format for this month only was an undoubted success with numerous further vignettes too numerous to mention in a very satisfying mix. Bilston Voices meets again on Thursday 27th October, 7.30pm. The usual format of a set bill of poets returns .