Category Archives: Stuff I’ve Seen

The Trip to Work 22/11/17

A taxi driving through a suburb near Newcastle City Centre.

TAXI DRIVER:           Where you getting the train to like?

ME:                               London.

TAXI DRIVER:            Is it business or pleasure?

ME:                                Business.

TAXI DRIVER:           What do you do?

[ROWAN tries to avoid the question.]

ME:                               [Pauses.] I’m making a film.

TAXI DRIVER:           In front of the camera or behind it?

ME:                               In front. I’m a poet and it’s National Poetry Day. Someone’s paying me to go down and do a poem and they’re going to film it.

TAXI DRIVER:           [Suddenly very frustrated, his hands gesticulating wildly.] A poet? A poet?! Well you’re going to hate me then mate! See: I only think it’s poetry if it rhymes.

ME:                                A lot of my stuff rhymes actually. But I’d still disagree.

TAXI DRIVER:           I’m sure you would, mate, I’m sure you would. But I only think it’s poetry if it rhymes. Otherwise it’s just a lecture, isn’t it? See, I like classical poetry me, ‘Tiger tiger burning bright’, that sort of thing.

ME:                               Well, you know, if you read Blake’s later stuff, it was a lot more experimental, he didn’t use rhyme at all and-

TAXI DRIVER:           Yeah but I’m not talking about that. See, for me, it’s like art. I hate Picasso. I don’t want to see a nose on the side of a face. What’s the point in that!?

ME:                                Have you ever seen Picasso’s early work? He painted for a long time in a very traditional style and-

TAXI DRIVER:            Yeah but I’m not talking about that. See, I’ve got this friend, right. We always get into big arguments like this. He goes to all the modern art galleries and that. And I say to him, how is that even art?! I mean, take this cloth here [TAXI DRIVER pulls out a grease stained cloth] I could put that down there and I could say that’s art, couldn’t I?

[The sun beams onto the grease stained cloth on the dashboard, as the council blocks zoom past beyond the motorway.]

ME:                                Well I suppose you could. Maybe everything is art.

TAXI DRIVER:            You can’t say that! You can’t just say, ‘Everything is art’. That’s ridiculous.

ME:                                 OK then, look, in your opinion, what makes a good painting?

TAXI DRIVER:             Something that looks like real life. Something that looks like a photo.

ME:                                  Yeah but the camera lens bends everything though, doesn’t it? So it’s out of proportion. Photos don’t follow the laws of perspective like real life. And there’s loads of things you can’t capture with a camera either. Like a sunset. You either photograph the sun, and lose the view around, or you photograph the view and you lose the sun. And everyone sees the world in their own way, anyway. Like, in Russian, there’s two shades of blue which are classed as two completely different colours. So one person could be looking at a picture and say it’s all one colour and another might say it’s two. Everyone sees things differently.

TAXI DRIVER:             What do you mean everyone sees things differently!!? Everyone sees things exactly the same! [Long pause.] Unless there’s something wrong with you.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Stuff I've Seen

The Anti Slam: How Crap Poetry Taught Me the Point of Spoken Word

anti-slam promoA few weeks ago I got an offer to be a part of something really fun. “How would you like to do the Anti Slam, a competition where poets stand up in front of judges and, instead of trying to do the best  they can, they try to be laughably, gloriously shit and lose”. “Easy!” I thought and, without thinking much further, said “I’m in”.

But the process turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. My first attempt, a tongue in cheek praise of the mining industry called ‘The Mines’*, was basically the anti-Calling New Geordieland (a collection of my poetry which embraces the North East in the 21st century). I thought it would be funny to do the opposite and go on a rant about the regions glorious industrial hay day and, in the process, try to make a point about how hard life really was back then.

But with a day left to go I started to have second thoughts. Is a parody of a topic really enough? Did the poem not still have some artistic worth if it pointed out what was wrong with something? Was it, in essence, slightly too good? (slightly being the key word here).

So I decided it would have to be even less well put together, in short: even shitter. And that’s what was quite fantastic about doing the Anti Slam because it also forced me to ask myself what a good poem, as well as a good performance, actually is. So I made the subject even duller, with no point to it in the slightest, and wrote one called ‘Dust’*. I decided to perform it extremely nervously, with no emotion and with an almost robotic pause at the end of every line. I realised that these are the worst things I think a performer can do and working it out made me not want to do any of them even more than before.

Anti-Slam finalAs an audience member the whole night was absolutely hilarious from start to finish. Steven Frizzle was a well deserved winner and goes on to the final in London, having created a fully formed character, Godfrey Staples: a spoilt American youngster who writes angry poetry about his dad, the head of a stationary enterprise. I’ve been familiar with his musical parodies for a few years now and this was a brilliant piece of stand up in its own right, something I really hope he keeps going. Other highlights for me were Emma Whitehall‘s completely cringe worthy erotica poem, Sarah Hammersley’s truly terrible rhyming and Chrissie Petrie‘s contribution, which was basically a very disturbing shopping list.

I caught up with Paula Varjack after the show, the co-founder of the Anti Slam which started in Berlin and is currently touring throughout the UK.

Was there anything about the nature of poetry slams that made you want to create the Anti Slam?

“Well the whole thing started because a lot of my German friends were poets on the spoken word scene and a lot of my expat friends were English-speaking comics on the stand-up scene and I wanted to do something that brought the two groups together. I don’t have anything against slams! I’ve always enjoyed them, though they can get very heated sometimes. Even if you say you don’t want to win, you’re always a bit upset if you lose. I wanted to do something that totally took that away and made it as fun as possible.”

Do you think doing something like this can teach us anything about poetry?

“I think it takes a lot of craft and thought to intentionally write a really terrible poem, not just a bad poem, but something truly embarrassing and cringe worthy. And in doing so you are challenged to think about what a good poem is and also how you write one. I’ve thought about this for a while, that there is something very liberating about embracing failure, it’s a big part of the ethos behind the Anti Slam.

Then a few months ago, I took a performance workshop with a mentor of mine, Stacy Makishi, and we did this exercise where we had to think about what would be the worst criticism we could receive about a performance: what we were most afraid of. Then we had to make and perform a short piece that embodied that. So, for example, if you were scared of being self-absorbed you would make the most self-absorbed piece you could imagine. Every single piece presented was hilarious.

Now, this group were all phenomenal performers, many very established, but that wasn’t the only reason the performances were so fantastic. I realised then that that’s what it is that makes the Anti Slam work: the act of permitting yourself to embrace what you try to avoid is not only liberating but it frees up all kinds of creative energy.
It’s also really enjoyable and that makes it enjoyable for the audience as well. Essentially what happens for the audience is they are watching a group of performers having lots of fun and that energy can only be infectious.”
Sure enough, by the end of the night two really interesting things had happened: I understood myself better as a performer and also felt closer to the other poets who made complete tools out of themselves as well.
The Anti-Slam grand final will be coming to London later this year and, whether you’re in to poetry or not, I guarantee it’s the best worst thing you’ll see in a long time!

 

*The Mines

 

My Granda said it was propper fine

when he worked down in the mine.

The hours were long but he didn’t mind

they ate ice cream all the time in the mines,

the mines, the mines, the mines,

the miney, miney, miney, miney, mines.

 

The people that ran it were really kind,

they gave you hats with shiny lights,

there was a safety inspector assigned

before the poisonous gasses made him blind

in the mines,

the mines, the mines, the mines,

the minedy, minedy, minedy, minedy, mines.

 

They were yours! They were mine!

My heart still pines for the joy of the mines!

HOW COULD THATCHER BE SO BLIND?!

Like pouring away a fancy wine

the day they closed down all the mines,

the mines, the mines, the mines, the mines

AND THE DOCKS! But mainly the mines,

the minedy, minedy, minedy, minedy,

minedy, minedy, mines.

 

* Dust

 

I found dust on my table the other day,

I got out a feather duster and tickled it away

but after a few days the dust had come back

as if I had not dusted at

all.

Where does dust come from?

It is dead bits of skin said someone

I know.

But I have never had a dusty leg

or a dusty arm, that’s what I said.

 

So I decided to sit and wait

to see how dust accumulates.

I went to my table and stared into space

looking for dust all over the place.

 

After a while my wife came to say

that she had to go away for a long time

and didn’t know when she was coming back.

I asked her if this conversation could wait

I was looking for dust all over the place.

But she just said goodbye and left.

And would you believe that since that day

I never saw any dust there again.

3 Comments

Filed under Stuff I'm Doing, Stuff I've Seen

The Real Life Mr. Hanky: Barcelona’s Christmas Poo

Caganar 2As it’s the festive season and all that, I thought I’d show you something really strange I found in Barcelona last summer. El Caganer, literally translated as “the crapper”, is a Christmas character who’s been part of Catalan culture for over 400 years. He’s often depicted as a peasant, wearing his traditional Catalan red hat and is bent over, with his pants down, right in the middle of doing a massive poo!

Yep, and would you believe me if I told you that El Caganer actually plays a major role in Christmas celebrations over there? Nearly everyone has a statue of him and he often finds his way into nativity scenes; he’s situated somewhere near baby Jesus’ inn, where everyone can gaze lovingly at him while he does his dirty business.

You might be wondering, like I was when I first heard of this, if it’s some kind of mass-scale Spanish troll. However, I asked my friend Alex, who’s lived his whole life in Barcelona and he assured me, in all seriousness, that El Caganer is as wholesome and Christmasy as Saint Nick.

And it gets weirder. You see, The Caganer isn’t the only Christmas poo celebrated by the Catalans. There’s also Tió de Nadal or “The Christmas Log”: a hollow piece of wood with legs and a face which poos out children’s presents on Christmas day. Yep, that’s right, it poos out the gifts people!

Tió_de_Nadal At the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th), children give the log something to ‘eat’ and then cover it with a blanket so it doesn’t get cold. They do this every night until Christmas Eve (or Christmas day), when they hit the log with a stick and sing songs to encourage it to poo. Then the kids go into another room and pray for the log to poo while the parents put some presents under the blanket. When the children come back they lift up the blanket and bobs your uncle: poo presents.

Although there’s loads of conflicting theories about where these quirky traditions come from, the one I really liked is the one our Barcelona tour guide mentioned. She explained that the focus on poo in Catalan Christmas is a celebration of the cyclical nature of life itself. Healthy manure is essential for a good harvest, a good harvest is in turn needed so we can have lots of tasty food. And delicious food is, of course, really important for a happy Christmas! This will in turn become good manure again (or at least it would if we followed The Caganer’s lead and took a poo outside… there’s something for you to consider over the holiday season after a few too many roast spuds).

Seriously though, is it just me or is there something strangely beautiful about that? I think any Christmas tradition that celebrates our connection to nature is alright in my books. Especially at a time when we’re wasting so many precious resources and polluting the earth, all so we can exchange trillions of plastic nick-knacks in a mince pie fueled frenzy.

Obama CaganerBut Christmas in Barcelona isn’t some sort of poo utopia, mind. In true consumerist fashion, there’s now hundreds of different types of Caganer you can buy, including one that looks like Prince William and one that looks like Obama. And they’re extortionately expensive. Happy holidays!

1 Comment

Filed under Stuff I've Seen

“You Can’t See the Wood for the Yellowy Nylon”: A Fluorescent Jacket Too Far…

Is it just me or are there far too many fluorescent jackets everywhere you go? I work part-time in a primary school and whenever we take the kids out on a trip they all have to be wearing that most beloved of health and safety uniforms.

First of all, why on earth they need to wear these in broad daylight completely escapes me. I remember when I was in school and we went on all kinds of trips through the woods, the city, the dungeon and we got on just fine without any fluorescent jackets at all!

article-2335617-1A259C26000005DC-646_964x541I’m told it’s so that drivers can see the kids near the road more easily.

Well excuse me for sounding a little cynical here, but I think that any driver careless or short-sighted enough to miss a line of 30 or so children crossing the road (and not slow down accordingly) is probably careless or short-sighted enough to miss a fluorescent jacket as well. There. I said it.

“But why take the risk eh Rowan?” you say. “Why take the risk when it would be just as easy to put on the jacket, put on the jacket and avoid all the doubt”.

Because: “oh dear, I bet that wouldn’t have happened if they were wearing a fluorescent jacket” sounds so much worse than: “well.. they were wearing a fluorescent jacket… there’s nothing more anyone could have done here is there!?”

But it isn’t just school children though is it? Since the 90’s all kinds of officials like policemen, electricians, postmen, gasmen, council workers, builders (pretty much every official who has to walk the street) now wears a fluorescent jacket don’t they?

It seems the logic here isn’t about safety but authority. “Look at me! I’m an important person!” shouts the self-righteous luminous jacket, with its magical glowing properties: far superior to any of your pathetic, regular fabrics with their lack of ability to reflect light. “BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!!”

safety-jacket300x350-ad-fAnd cyclists use them as well don’t they? To show the motorists that they’re there, while motorists use them now during breakdowns as well. It’s actually law in some European countries to carry a fluorescent jacket in the car all the time, if you don’t you can be fined!

Whatever happened to faith in the good old-fashioned light, that’s what I want to know! The car light? The bike light? The street light? Remember those? They did the same job! Except they created light instead of reflecting it!!

“Well its OK for you to poke fun Rowan!” I hear you retort, “having never been in a serious accident in your life. People are doing this for the benefit of themselves and their families and you’re mocking it! With your big mocking face! I hope you die!”

Well I can let the school trips slide.. and the cyclists, the motorists.. and the officials at a push. But today I saw something that went right over the line and crossed into sheer absurdity.

I saw a man. Walking his dog. In a residential area. In broad daylight. And him and the dog, WERE BOTH WEARING FLUORESCENT JACKETS!

dog in fluorNow I’m sorry but this is just too far! What’s next? Jackets for cats as well? Might as well go the whole hog and start sticking them on wildlife too! Pigeons and badgers all lit up in various techno-colours because “YOU NEVER CAN BE TOO SAFE CAN YOU!?”

So let’s get this straight. The pedestrians and the dogs are wearing the jackets for the motorists and the cyclists to see right? The public servants and the officials are wearing them for the public in general, while the motorists and cyclists are wearing them for the other motorists and cyclists.

So the message here seems to be: “Here! Everyone! Look out for everyone! All of the time”… which seems to dilute the whole point of anyone wearing them in the first place!!

It reminds me of an anecdote from my time doing A Level history. I looked at another student’s exercise book and noticed they’d highlighted every line, bar a few connectives like ‘the’, with a yellow highlighter pen.

“But how are you going to know which bits are the most important?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ll just remember all of it” she replied vacantly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff I've Seen

The Dark and Sinister Truth About Justin Bieber

I write this in fear that I may be assassinated, for I am truly the definition of a man who knows too much. But I have no choice but to continue! A sense of moral conviction urges me to reveal to the world the dark truth I’ve learned about Justin Bieber.

You’ll find one of his works posted above, the song entitled “Dr. Bieber”, and I have transcribed the lyrics at the bottom of the page encase you’d like to check the details for yourself.

For what I’ve found upon close analysis of his wordsmithery is nothing less than terrifying. However, I’ll start from the beginning.

I first sat down a few months ago to study the lyrics of “Dr. Bieber” in more detail. Bieber seemed to have such an excellent mastery of the American tongue, I thought it would be beneficial to my own writing if I looked at the techniques he had used.

I was at first surprised to learn that, as well as being a professional lyricist, Bieber is also a trained medical practitioner! Yes, like John Keats before him, Bieber not only has a great knowledge of language but an in-depth understanding of scientific practice as well. We are told from the off:

‘Cure the Bieber fever,
Dr. Bieber,
Dr. Bieber,
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber,
Dr. Bieber,
Dr. Bieber,
Bieber fever,
Dr. Bieber,
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber’.

What we learn here (except from his excellent mastery of both repetition and internal rhyme) is that Bieber is not only a doctor but is on a mission to, as he says, ‘cure the Bieber fever’.

Bieber Fever is a disease of the brain which is most commonly found in young girls between ages 6 and 17. The causes of it are little known but the effects in early stages include an irrational obsession with Justin Bieber himself, leading to intense hysteria and later to a complete deterioration of all cognitive processes.

One might say that it is extremely honorable of Dr. Bieber to try to cure this disease. Last year, Bieber Fever was responsible for putting around 150 thousand young people into a waking coma, while the World Health Organisation have deemed it the fastest spreading and most dangerous threat to humanity (a fact also alluded to in the lyrics themselves).

Honorable more still, perhaps, when we consider that Bieber himself is the focus of the irrational obsession which characterises the onset of the fever.

One may say it is quite apt that it’s he, of all people, who has decided to dedicate his time to finding a cure. “Apt,” I found myself thinking at the time, “but also very strange”.

We are then told:

‘Yeah, I got a PHD
I don’t need a fake ID’

I found this information quite troubling. First of all, if any ‘True Beliebers’ are reading, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not disputing the fact that Justin Bieber has been awarded a PhD.

No, judging from his knowledge of Bieber Fever I think it’s safe to assume that he studied virology. Which university he attended isn’t clear, although sources seem to indicate it was probably an institution such as Yale.

The main problem I have here is that, being a graduate myself, I have never been able to substitute my B.A as a valid form of ID.

In fact, upon telling a bouncer at a local nightclub that I had no ID but did have a First Class Honors from a Russel Group University, I was told, and in no uncertain terms, that if I didn’t leave immediately I would be “knocked clean oot”. I then spoke to a friend who is a doctor in virology, who confirmed that his position and qualifications don’t work as ID either.

Suspicious? Yes, and it made me wonder what kind of establishments Dr. Bieber is frequenting, as their policy towards underage drinking seems to be lax to say the least.

But it’s here that the song takes a much more sinister turn, for Bieber goes on to tell us:

‘I’m so sick with no IV
J to the U to the S to the T
Bieber fever’s in the street
Time to realize
I’m a beast, I’m a beast, I’m a Beast
Say it 3 times cause they know it’s right’

First of all, try to ignore Bieber’s masterful adaptation of the ‘power of three’ motif in the last two lines (an obvious reference to the ‘Weird Sisters‘ of Shakespeare’s Macbeth).

Instead, look closer at the medical language used. Now, far be it from me to question Bieber’s knowledge of the correct codes and practices for doctors. However, it seems to me that no doctor should be researching a cure at all if they are as sick as Bieber claims. Furthermore, the fact that he can’t obtain an IV despite being a doctor seemed curious to say the least.

“But what is he sick with?” I asked myself frantically. What is the link here between Bieber clearly being ‘a beast’ and having ‘no IV’?

The dark truth began to bubble to the surface when I read shortly afterwards:

‘Catch this virus in the night
I know it’s uncurable
It’s durable
But it’s alright’

Something wasn’t right here, the facts weren’t adding up. What kind of man would spend what must have been at least 7 or 8 years studying for a PhD in virology at Yale, what kind of man would study for that long only to dedicate his great mind to curing a disease which he admits himself is in fact ‘uncurable’?

But his description of the Bieber Fever points directly to the sinister reasons that lurk beneath; he describes it as ‘durable’, he says that it’s ‘alright’. “This surely isn’t the kind of language you would use to explain a disease you want to eradicate,” I thought, “it’s closer to the language you would use to sell a back pack, or a modest pair of walking shoes: something you had designed for a purpose”.

‘This is not a cold,
Not a flu
Not a sickness
Baby this is good
And it doesn’t hurt to get this
You were never cured
And you never will regret this’

I shrill sense of terror crawled up the base of my spine and I knew from that moment that Dr. Bieber had created the fever himself.

A man of science gone mad with power, he used his adept knowledge of virology to design a kind of human equivalent to Mxymotosis.

His aim? To destroy the minds of all young people by administering the virus in drinks, served in disreputable night clubs with very lenient controls on admitting children.

He then used the alibi of being a musician to conceal the fact that he had unleashed it upon the world.

‘It’s everywhere
It’s taking over the water
It’s taking over the air streams
You can not run from it
You can not hide from it
That’s why we call it
BIEBER FEVER!’

But that wasn’t good enough for Dr. Bieber… Drunk on his own incredible intellect, he dosed himself with the virus and, in a fit of insanity, confessed the entire plot within one of his own hit songs.

I started digging further. Found others who knew. Met with scientists who were originally involved in “Project Fever” before they refused to carry on: realising the dark truth about what he was plotting.

Then things started happening. Strange things. Threatening messages from anonymous callers telling me to “forget about the fever”. My ringtone kept being changed from Toots and the Maytals to Justin Bieber. Then I found a small bomber jacket under the covers of my bed one day…

I was in too deep. I still am. But there’s nothing I can do now.

There are some who’ll say I should have told the police, approached scientists to try to create an antidote. God bless their innocent souls! But the renowned Dr. Bieber himself has already boasted of its ‘uncurability’ and it’s ‘durability’! I ask you, what hope is there of finding an antidote now?!

No. If the fever doesn’t get me then the Bieber most certainly will. And the only cure for either, is a bullet to the brain…


* “Dr. Bieber”

[Justin Bieber:]
Cure the Bieber fever
Dr. Bieber
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber (Bieber fever is spreading across the country…)
Dr. Bieber (wait world no universe…)
Dr. Bieber (Bieber fever is spreading rapidly and it is uncurable I repeat uncurable)
Bieber fever
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Cure the fever
Cur cur cure the fever
Cur cure the fever
Cure the bieber fever
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Cure the fever
Cur cur cure the fever
Cur cure the fever
Cure the Bieber fever (yeah, yeah)Yeah, I got a PHD
I don’t need a fake ID
Yeah you females know of me
I’m so sick with no IV
J to the U to the S to the T
Bieber fever’s in the street
Time to realize
I’m a beast, I’m a beast, I’m a Beast
Say it 3 times cause they know it’s right
Catch this virus in the night
I know it’s uncurable
It’s durable
But it’s alright
Bein’ this bad across the globe
Been every single home
Every city
Every country
Every girl is on the phone
(Oh my gosh I love him. Isn’t he perfect?)
You can be my queen, yeah
I’ll show u how I work it
How I work it
How I how I work it
How I work it
How I how I (work)This is not a cold,
Not a flu
Not a sickness
Baby this is good
And it doesn’t hurt to get this
You were never cured
And you never will regret this
Yeah, my swag’s up
Riding with Kenny
In the Lexis[Kenny Hamilton:]
Oh My God
It’s bieber fever
It’s everywhere
It’s taking over the water
It’s taking over the air streams
You can not run from it
You can not hide from it
That’s why we call it
BIEBER FEVER![Justin Bieber:]
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Cure the fever
Cur cur cure the fever
Cur cure the fever
Cure the bieber fever
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Dr. Bieber
Doc Doc Doc Dr. Bieber
Cure the fever
Cur cur cure the fever
Cur cure the fever
Cure the bieber fever
We Know the DJ.com
We got DJ Tay James right here
We also got Sean Kingston[Sean Kingston:]
What a’gwaan
You know what it is Bieber fever man!
[Cough cough] Shawty mane, [cough cough] shawty mane
I caught Bieber fever too

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff I've Seen

Review: Jibba Jabba 25/07/13 @ The Cumberland Arms

It’s about 30 degrees and I’m crammed in a crowded, darkened room. The sweat is pouring from my face into a puddle on the floor and we’re all listening to a woman with tarot cards explain a mysterious Hindu proverb. You’d be excused for thinking I’m in the Far East, but I’m not. I’m just in Byker!

It was the latest installment of Jibba Jabba! Which was host to two sneaky Edinburgh Fringe Festival previews from the marvelous Kirsten Luckins and Steven ‘Friz’ Frizzle, as well as the charming ukulele stylings of Alix Alixandra.

DSC_0526Final-JPegAlix opened up the show, starting with a song about it being too hot to have sex, a lovely jazzy number which had all the allure of Rosemary Clooney’s “Come On-a My House”.

I first heard Alix when we were performing together a few months ago at a guerrilla gig in Sunderland and she’s definitely one to keep an eye on! She’s a fascinating musician, with a good knack for writing catchy chord progressions and vocal melodies.

You’d expect that the stripped down sound of just her and an un-mic’d uke would make her fall into the background a bit on stage. But you’d be wrong! Her voice has a captivating soulfulness to it that just grabs you by the ears and pulls your face in her direction.

By the time she did a song entitled ‘You Could Have Just Stayed’, with its lyrics reflecting on the failings of a past relationship, I don’t think there was a jaw which hadn’t dropped in the audience.

DSC_0798Final-JPegKirsten Luckins wowed us with excerpts from her brand new show The Moon Cannot Be Stolen, a collection of poems, stories and experiences from her time spent living in India. As I mentioned at the top, it was hot by this point (I mean really really hot) and as Kirsten led us through the drug riddled, violent underbelly of 90’s Goa, I couldn’t help but get transported there in body and in mind: a bit like Universal Studios’ 4D thingy but with less bum bags (and I’m referring here to both the belt/purse contraptions and the people who wear them).

Having been the Apples and Snakes co-ordinator for the North East and a poetry coach at their monthly scratch club for a number of years, I suppose it should come as no surprise that Kirsten is an amazing poet in her own right. But every time I see her she really does blow me away and this time was no exception.

Her style is voluptuous and dense with images, nodding its head to poets like Zena Edwards in its smooth and sexy delivery. However, her speech often flits between a quite ‘literary’ language and a much more conversational tone, which gives it a true versatility of expression. To put it another way, she’s a poet who’s not afraid to call a spanner a spanner when it’s most blatantly a spanner; she never minces her words unnecessarily in a vain attempt to try to sound ‘poetic’ and I think this flitting of styles gives her work a real rawness and clarity.

However, I must admit I was skeptical about how she would create a show about a year spent traveling; one which would be accessible to someone who perhaps hadn’t been to India or even abroad at all.

But The Moon Cannot Be Stolen is much more than a travel diary: it’s a deep questioning of the nature of each of our identities. As she looks back on her past self she asks who she was then and who she is now. She asks if any of us have an internal identity, or whether it’s all just a result of the time and place we’re living in at that particular moment.

As well as this, she also performed a short poem which managed to make dysentery sound sort of beautiful, which is living proof that, though you may not be able to polish a turd, you can cover it in sparkles!

Catching up with her after the show, she told me about her feelings towards the 25-year-old Kirsten. “I feel very maternal [towards her]. I just want to grab her and say ‘what are you doing!?’ but I also feel very lucky to have had that experience”.

If you’re lucky enough to be at The Fringe this year, you can catch her full show from 3rd to the 10th of August at La Tasca at 4pm. You will not be disappointed!

DSC_1225Final-JPegStephen ‘Friz’ Frizzle was also on top form, performing his catchy rewrites of pop songs into hilarious, scathing and topical punch lines for his new show Plinky Plonker. The highlight for me was the opening ditty, a rework of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ into a dig at the news’s obsession with the royal birth; also his version of ‘Monster Mash’, which is literally about Monster energy drinks and mashed potato. It has to be seen to be believed and you can catch him at The Fringe at Fingers Piano Bar between 3rd and 24th of August, 6.40 pm.

And on top of all these antics there was the usual open mic! We saw some fantastic performances from Ettrick Scott, Dominic Berry and Juli Edgdell as well as some more… challenging work from a Mr. Ian McGregor-Hart, who took to the stage multiple times to play midi tracks off his phone and sing out of tune lyrics about parrots and planes.

Such is the nature of open mic though I suppose and, all in all, it was a brilliant night. And for only 3 quid as well! Well, you know how the old saying goes: the best things in life are 3!

Photographs kindly provided by Jonathan Parker @ Spurious Nonsense Art Photography

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff I've Seen