A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
The Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse, Camden, merges various art forms that all centre on the spoken word – in some cases fusing with music, circus and cabaret. Established artists feature in the festival alongside younger, emerging artists; The Roundhouse supports 18 to 25-year-olds starting out in spoken word poetry (amongst other things) through the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, of which I was a member. Each show I see, I bump into fellow poets, for example, chatting to Toby Campion, we realise we both came through the Roundhouse programme.
On a rainy Friday, people in-the-know gathered to listen to poetry in Ugly Duck for the launch of Sophie Fenella’s debut poetry collection The Rich Nothing. Ugly Duck is actually a series of different event spaces, with this particular one being located at 47/49 Tanner Street in Bermondsey. Inside this old Victorian tannery (where leather skins are processed), therein lies ‘The Garage’. On the ground floor, the space is described as having ‘a grungy urban warehouse feel’, and without much natural light at the back, it has an underground vibe in more than one sense of the word. With genuine caution signs for wet floors from leaks, it feels like an abandoned building that has been turned into an exhibition space – but in a cool way.
by Liv Barnett
Barbershop Chronicles is a ride which buzzes with energy from the first shaves to the final fades. It is written by Inua Ellams, UK-based poet, playwright and performer, and is an exhilarating play that identifies various aspects of black men’s experience through snippets of stories and interactions in barbershops that Ellams overheard as he travelled throughout Africa. Like hairdressers or taxi rides, barbershops can be intimate spaces for banter, storytelling and confession. With generosity and patience, this play does a good job of allowing audience members to step momentarily into the world of men’s chats. We become part of the warmth and banter between sensitive characters and appreciate the feelings and analyses that come with post-colonial politics, experiences of cultural change, complex family dynamics and making a living amongst love and friendship.
Sense Me, by Annum Salman, arrives in a beautiful box filled with paper hearts, shredded tissue paper and a plastic blue quill-style pen. I received it after seeing her feature at That’s What She Said, a spoken word night in London. The book and the box are perfect for Instagram, yet I didn’t expect to see a ‘social media etiquette’ flyer inside, which strikes me as a clever touch necessary for a self-published text.
by Tom McGhie
Content warning: sexual harassment, sexual abuse, misogyny
There are few greater feelings than when an artist connects with their audience at a gig, something more than just applause and guitar chords. Most people have, at some point in their lives, attended a gig which has stuck in their memory because of that very exchange between performer and public. This visceral communication is what propels music as one of the most important art forms; it brings people together in an ever-dividing societal sphere.
By Eli Lambe
There are individual, form-based and contextual reasons the performance of Slam Poetry often goes viral – as a form it is rooted not in the appearance of words on a page, but in the exchange between poet and audience, the intense and intentional circulation of emotion between the two. Originally conceived as a way of getting out from stuffy academic interactions with poetry, the form has grown since the first slams in the 1980’s and has, over the last decade, been reaching wider and wider audiences through YouTube and social media.