Andrea Gibson w/Katie Wirsing
Reviewed by David Turner [Originally published on the old blog, October 2014]
Behind an unassuming green door on a narrow street leading to Stockholm’s beautiful Mosebacke Torg lay Dramalabbet; a surprisingly large ‘black-box’ style venue with space for over one hundred audience members.
Before the show the atmosphere was buzzing even as the audience filed in in true, polite Swedish fashion. I’ve never witnessed this level of excitement before a spoken word gig. It felt more like the build up to a rock concert (or insert genre that doesn’t make me seem completely out of touch).
Many I spoke to as we queued for tickets had spent the last four or five years following Andrea on Youtube so it probably shouldn’t have been such a surprise that the air felt so electric. This just served to rub in the fact that I had not heard of Andrea or Katie before seeing the beautiful artwork advertising the gig. What is it with strangers constantly making me feel so shit about my lack of knowledge of spoken word?
I won’t go into this too much as I want to focus on the show but I was impressed by the knowledge of the international spoken word scene here in Stockholm. It’s an admirable trait to be so hungry for external influences while remaining proud of home grown talent.
The evening started with Katie Wirsing. She began by encouraging noise from the audience and directed questions toward them right from the start. I don’t know if this was a deliberate tactic but having spent a lot of time in Scandinavia I can say from experience that it’s good to get audiences over here to relax quickly as they’ll fast become some of the most responsive and enthusiastic spectators you’ll perform to.
Katie performed a selection of poems on subjects ranging from her relationship with her conservative grandmother to skydiving and her grandfather’s funeral (the first she had attended). While the subjects were wide-ranging the overall theme was the same: “Let’s all just enjoy our time here while trying to connect with each other.”
Now. Katie is probably the most ‘polished’ performer I’ve seen at a spoken word event but elements of her style didn’t sit that well with me. I just do not understand the need for such pronounced hand movements while reciting, and do we have to be uplifted all the time? Probably the Englishman in me speaking but I’ll use beer if I want to feel momentarily happy, thank you very much. The words were proper good though.
The joint went well bonkers when Andrea stepped up to the mic. There was a very real sense of climax to the anticipation as the audience, host and poet realised that “this was actually going to happen”. Andrea began speaking; her voice cracked immediately and she remained, vocally at least, on the verge of tears throughout. Her delivery was refreshingly flat, peaking with perfect timing backed by a surprisingly effective soundtrack.
Andrea’s set took as its subject matter gender neutrality, marriage equality, feminism and misogyny. A ridiculous preconception, I know, but I didn’t expect Andrea to speak so directly to me (white, hetero, male and all the other useless labels), but regardless of the subject matter of the individual poems the overriding theme of the evening was our fundamental right to be able to love and receive the love of whoever we want. Her poetry addresses everyone, though it was truly beautiful to see the reactions of those in the audience that Andrea was speaking ‘directly to’, those that had struggled in some way growing up in a patriarchal society.
Toward the end of the night Katie joined Andrea on stage for some duets. These were at times touching, painful and hilarious. Their cover of a Keith Drake poem was particularly funny. As Andrea and Katie put it, they only cover poems by white male poets as we’re so badly under represented! Finally eh, brothers? This was a truly inclusive gig.
Andrea’s set ended with the audience shouting out requests. For poetry. They were requesting individual poems. By name. ?. When all this came to a close Andrea received a standing ovation (the audience were standing, clapping and stamping their feet at the same time, like some sort of flashmob one-man band), an encore later and it was done.
I’m not going to say much more as I don’t think I can do justice with my writing to Andrea’s ability. Though I will say this: this performance has touched me in a way that I’ve yet to fully process. Just go and fucking see her then you’ll get it. OK?
My name is David and I fucking hate poetry. Though I may be a little bit in love with Andrea. “Feelings are not the enemy.”