by Laura Potts
CW: Mentions violence against children
More than any other art form, spoken word performance art allows an audience to directly interact with the thoughts of the artist. This kind of interaction can often change minds more effectively than argument or statistic, making spoken word art a very progressive medium. As a spoken word enthusiast and an artist on a student budget, I was therefore excited to attend Matt Abbott’s pay-what-you-can preview of his Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Two Little Ducks’ at the Norwich Arts Centre recently. And my excitement was certainly justified – Two Little Ducks is a powerfully thought-provoking, politically driven work.
The show was supported by poets and artists Lewis Buxton, Michelle Fisher, and Pete Murdoch (aka Birds of Hell). Michelle Fisher, a Glaswegian writer, was a finalist for Words First – a national collaborative spoken word project run by BBC Radio 1xtra and the Roundhouse. Her work is unashamedly political, uncovering the melancholy truth of what our decisions regarding environment and governance will inflict on future generations. Our reckless actions will forever have consequences for the quality of lives to come. ‘Nothing grows here any more’ – the repeated line rings of T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland. She branched out to tackle a number of other topics, personal as well as political, in an ever-accessible style, inviting open conversation. As a result, the feelings her words invoked linger long after the performance ends, showing the beauty of the spoken word.
The result of the vote may represent a stance on that past more than a definitive vision of the future
The longest performance of the night came from Matt Abbott himself, intertwining a few powerful themes to expose the artist to his audience and encourage us to open our minds. He spoke of Brexit Britain, challenging preconceived ideas of why people chose to vote leave. For many it was more than a ‘two’s up’ to the establishment. During the campaign, the past was brought to the forefront to remind of mistakes and victories that lie there. We were reminded of the heritage of our country, and the elder among us in particular were encouraged to draw on nostalgia. The result of the vote may represent a stance on that past more than a definitive vision of the future.
Matt’s second main theme was the ongoing refugee crisis, in which he has worked on the front line as a volunteer. The Calais border is emblematic of the paradox of this crisis, in the centre of the West that boasts of its civilisation, yet is home to so little sympathy. White liberal guilt engulfed the room as we were swiftly reminded of the inhumanity still taking shape at the hands of our governments and some of our fellow citizens. One story Matt told us struck particularly hard. He saw CS gas being used on children as they swarmed towards a van offering fruit and vegetables. The justification? That if more than half a dozen people move collectively at speed that may become a riot, even if they are hungry children. There is very little humanity there. In our individualistic society, we are taught from a young age that the collective group we should care about does not reach beyond those we choose to associate with. This entrenched view must change if we are to grow into a new generation of international citizens.
At this point, the spoken word becomes much more. It carries, sustains and processes our guilt for being part of a society so blind that it attacks children running for food. Poetry holds many keys in hand. Some unlock tradition and memory; a modern wave of poetry is tackling the real, present issues that so many ignore. ‘The union flag in flames’ – the final line from Matt, that convinced me we should all engage with spoken word art. It may just hold enough power to raise us up out of ourselves to question: Why is our generation ploughing on blindly, selfishly, only our own future in mind?
Featured image credit: Matt Abbott
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