The Boars Head is a proper old fashioned pub, full of doors and nooks and crannies. It has also become a cultural hub in Kidderminster. When it first opened in 1888, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and Tennyson were alive and writing. It is fitting that as part of an artistic platform which takes in art and music, poetry is now on the agenda in the guise of Mouth & Music, promoted by Heather Wastie and Sarah Tamar. Sarah took the lead for this evening with quiet assurance and a few poems of her own, as Heather was performing in the Brewers Troupe ensemble who were performing excerpts from Snug, a bespoke piece about a pub.
This was the fourth Mouth & Music and already it is gathering quite a following with over forty people crowded into the first floor gallery space leaving standing room only. The format comprises open mic slots for around three poems for which you can sign up on the night, a few acoustic guitarists, and a headline act which tonight were Brewers Troupe. The audience was pleasingly mixed including a healthy presence of young talent, the local boho crowd, writers groups and troubadours from Wolverhampton , Walsall and Worcester ( I may have missed other locations beginning in W).
The content was diverse. Jack Edwards delighted with a clever rehearsed performance piece in which the audience heard half a conversation he was ostensibly having on his mobile phone with an annoyed girlfriend. I like Jack. He writes well, performs his work dramatically, but not to the detriment of the content and engages well with the audience. Furthermore, he understands that “less is more”, after that piece he took the applause and sat down leaving us wanting more.
David Calcutt also played the same hand of just one excellent piece, in this case Achillies ,a powerful discourse on death. A chance conversation resulted in him revealing the extent of his stage experience and that acting prowess shone. With no book as a shield, the classical imagery and lyrical verse unerringly found their mark. Also going for the single shot was Dave Francis, who performed an adaptation of Pinter’s Silence, a clever idea, very well executed.
Snug is unfolding as one of the best, and most frustrating projects I have seen. The concept is perfect, an ensemble performance of a collection of bespoke poems about a pub and the characters within them. The characters are memorably drawn, the drama poignant and amusing, the language a delight. The problem that they face is that with a cast of several, and a script written for the physical surroundings of The Hollybush in Cradley Heath, it is expensive to tour and awkward to make the action fit other surroundings. They overcame those constraints this time by producing a “greatest hits” set which worked well, and left those of us who know the material longing for more. Emma Purshouse’s anthropomorphic “Conchita the slot machine” is a wonderful creation, and one which the gambling industry would make millions from, if it were allowed. If previously you have never regarded slot machines as sexy, check out Emma in her long black Latino wig. Heather Wasties’ tipsy Edith was, by contrast, understated, but no less effective.
Acoustic guitar songs were performed by itinerant Ali 12 string, Omar Anthony and Kate Wragg, the latter of whom combined the voice of Joan Baez, the edge of Talking Heads, and the lyrical sharpness of Elvis Costello. A strong list of open micer’s included debutante David Hallard who acquitted himself well, Lisa Ventura with a defiant, and enjoyably breezy, “I Will Survive” set ,and the always striking and entertaining Suz Winspear ,whose Evil Trees is fast becoming, deservedly, her signature piece.
Mouth & Music returns on Tuesday the 8th May, 7.30pm with The Decadent Divas from Birmingham headlining.
Gary Longden 11/4/12