“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,” a description borrowed from Mathew 7, but just as apposite to WV14 on Thursday night as a storm of Biblical proportions lashed the Black Country with the savagery and intensity of a slave drivers whip. Inevitably roads became impassable under water, and those caught outside were drenched, reducing the normally fulsome attendance a little this night for November’s Bilston Voices. Yet those undaunted by adversity outside were rewarded with a typically entertaining evening’s fare inside.
A double header of Malvern talent opened the evening commencing with the sartorially distinctive John Xavian who revelled in teasing the audience regarding the solemnity or satire of his work. Assuming the demeanour of an eccentric Doctor Who he in turn played to the eccentricities of Tom Baker , whilst also offering the reassuring gravitas of a Jon Pertwee. Whether eulogising The seed of the Sunrise, or an addiction to doughnuts, he engaged and entertained in equal measure. Fellow Malvernian Myfanwy Fox is an accomplished poet, and photographer, who never seems to perform as often as her talent demands. Her pastiche of Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella about Rebekah Brookes continues to be her party piece, witty, well crafted and waspish. Belloc inspired Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd to write Mathilda’s Mother based upon Belloc’s Cautionary Tales , Myfanwy continues a fine and honourable tradition.
Unusually, host Emma Purshouse had invited singer songwriter Alex Vann to perform an acoustic set, accompanied by guitar to provide variety for the evening, and he did just that in some style. Appleside Cafe was his strongest song with his vocal sound very similar to Graham Nash and the song structure itself similar to Crosby Stills and Nash’s epic Suite; Judy Blue Eyes. The genre is an increasingly difficult one to excel in with the likes of Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Cohen and more recently Craig David having set the standard so high. Alex had a good go at providing a 21st century twist.
After the break there was a change of Calcutts, the billed Helen being replaced by her father David who promoted his new book on the legends of Robin Hood, entitled Robin Hood, illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. He read the hangman’s tale, a representation which was warm and affectionate to the tradition. Although suitable for children, it will strike a chord with anyone whose childhood was influenced by books on Robin Hood, the films starring Errol Flynn, or numerous television series. David is good at myths and legends and his language and delivery is quintessentially English and credible, so much so that I half expected Friar Tuck to appear at the door to take refuge from the rain soaked forest.
Headlining the evening was local boy made good Richard Tyrone Jones performing as part of his nationwide tour of Big Heart, his show about (his) heart failure- but with jokes. His delivery is frenetic, his black humour all-encompassing. A varied set did venture beyond his near death experience to his relationship with Tories and wheel clampers, both of which are somewhat unsatisfactory. More acerbic than lyrical, he carves a fairly distinctive niche on the current performance scene. His delivery is pacier than the similarly laconic Byron Vincent, but eschews the chiming rhyme of Polar Bear.
Bilston Voices next meets on Thursday Jan 24th at 7.30pm when Tom Wyre will be amongst the featured poets.