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.
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.
Kirsten 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!
Stephen ‘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