Gary From Leeds: Yeti, 9/8/14

Gary from Leeds: Yeti
The Royal Oak, Venue 309, 1 Infirmary Street
09/08/2014 1-2pm
August 2nd-23rd, 1-2pm
Free

Review: Phoebe Walker

Ever wondered what the most rave thing in poetry is? Gary from Leeds can tell you. Obviously, it’s the RHYMING COUPLET, and I can confirm that it is rave, because we all spent a good chunk of Gary’s show brandishing twigs in lieu of glow sticks (hey, this is the free fringe) and head banging to a mosh pit rendition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. Gary even thoughtfully provided pills (“they’re just Mentos, please don’t tell health and safety”), as well as strips of cotton wool for the audience to lay across their heads – this had to be a true Yeti poetry rave, and bulk-buying cotton wool is a more economical alternative to supplying twenty of Gary’s custom-made, winsomely fluffy Yeti helmets.

Gary is a yeti, he explains; unused to the human world, he has to glean most of his information from the pages of Glamour magazine, which, he points out in anguish, too often poses unanswerable questions. “Should you try a bob, or an undercut?”, “He’s thrown you a sex curveball: what do you do next?” “Have you tried Peruvian?”. The yeti stuff is a good shtick, and works well at tying the various elements of the show together by bringing it back to the easy-to-identify-with subtext: Humans are pretty odd. Gary is excellent at performing with a casual, off-the-cuff style that relaxes an audience, whilst marrying this with truly funny, imaginative and well-delivered material. He never misses a beat, seguing seamlessly from poems (which, he warns, are often “just lists of dispassionate nouns”) into skits on the TripAdvisor reviews of another ‘Gary from Leeds’: not big on battered sausages but a fan of Modern British cuisine. The poems are good, even if Gary is keen to understate them – when the first draws a round of applause, he looks bemused and replies “I’m really not that kind of poet”. This is properly enjoyable poetry though; ‘Field Day’ jabs lightly at “a well-known festival…I’m not the sort to name names” and begins:

‘Look at them all like lice on a well-washed youth’s head of hair
No giant comb is handy for the good public’s sanitation
Height of expression the wooly hat worn high
Perhaps a parody of the ride a cap took on the skulls of East 17’

I enjoyed Gary’s rueful self-awareness of poetry’s often sketchy reputation in the public consciousness, as well as hearty acknowledgement of some of its more tedious expressions; jazz poetry (“You just can’t make it good”) and the pretentiously profound haiku, for example. Gary himself has a handy cardboard sign labelled ‘Poetry’, which he holds up as a warning whenever another poem is forthcoming. The blurring between storyteller-style stand-up and comic (but never crass) poetry is hugely entertaining, and for me was an entirely new, very welcome subset of spoken word. Gary makes a few half-hearted bids for Joke of the Fringe, including this short poem:

I wonder
what the world would be like
without any similes…’

which gets my vote. Heroically pausing only twice for a slug of squash, Gary pours forth a flood of words in combinations you’ve probably never dreamed of – go ahead and be drenched in this bizarre, undoubtedly uplifting performance. You might even get a hug at the end.

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