Edinburgh 2014 Round-Up

[Originally published in LP2, September 2014]

Throughout August Hannah Collins, Kyle Cooper, Becca Inglis and Phoebe Walker reviewed spoken word shows from the Edinburgh Festival for our website. Here are extracts of their reviews, plus their own personal highlights. 

Rob Auton The Face Show I don’t think anyone really has much of a clue what’s meant to be happening, not even Auton himself, despite the presence of an impressive set of props including dried lasagne sheets, a World Cup sticker book and a CD of choral music. Variously described as a stand-up, a poet and a performer, Auton explains that he mostly just tells stories, some of which are better than others. PW

Phoebe Walker’s highlights: This year’s Edinburgh fringe has introduced me to performers I’d never heard of and genres I never knew existed; everything I saw, without exception (and how often can you say that at the Fringe?) was genuinely worthwhile – screamingly funny, unaffectedly poignant, valuably weird and often all of these put together. Standouts for me were the bookends of my 2014 Fringe experience, so Kate Fox’s Poet in Residence, which owes its success to Fox’s wonderful warmth as a performer, and Lucy Ayrton’s The Splitting of the Mermaid, which was a virtuosic exercise in how to spin a heartbreakingly modern fairy tale. For some properly frenetic poetry after dark, I’d also single out Tim Clare’s Be Kind To Yourself – I actually grabbed a man by the lapels and told him to go and see it.

Megan Cohen Take Me Home: A One-Woman Odyssey It’s very, very funny and utterly engaging, the more so because Cohen isn’t just riffing lazily on the bard’s yarn for laughs – she really knows her stuff. PW

Jack Dean: Threnody for the Sky Children This is a story confidently, quietly told, assured of the power of its own narrative which, quite apart from the sensational storyline, hums with linguistic style. PW

Kyle Cooper’s highlight: Choosing a single highlight from the Fringe is always a challenge – with such a vast range of acts, picking a favourite is almost impossible. A particularly good way to spend an hour, however, is Charlie Dupré’s Philosorap Cabaret; a one-man variety performance with an emphasis on spoken word and rap. In it, Dupré performs a rap battle between Dawkins and God, mimes Spinoza’s central ideas, conducts a freestyle rap as Kant, and portrays a hyperactive Nietzsche wearing a superman cap (‘I’m Frederik! Do you like Pearl Harbour?’). Intelligent and frequently hilarious, Dupré performs with technical brilliance and bountiful energy.

Gary From Leeds Yeti 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. PW

Mark Grist and MC Mixy Dead Poets’ Deathmatch An 8-bit sprite of Sylvia Plath holding a sword, and the grim reaper himself on the sound deck – this was always going to be an amusing show. KC

Hannah Collins’s highlight: It’s always strange seeing a celebrity in real life. Usually confined to the 2D glow of my computer screen, Phill Jupitus was granted the true presence he deserves by the Jam House’s stage at this year’s Fringe festival. Having always seen Jupitus as a comedian, it was interesting (and touching) to see him deliver a different kind of performance in his show Porky the Poet in Juplicity. This was an hour-long spoken-word treat wherein Jupitus was really able to showcase the diversity of his talents.

Loud Poets guarantees a smorgasbord of lyrical enjoyment, laughter, arresting performances and, above all, talent. HC

David Lee Morgan: Pornography and Heartbreak There’s lyricism here, but also unflinchingly brutal commentaries that lay bare the realities of the sex industry, porn addictions, self-hatred and remorse. PW

Becca Inglis’s highlight: Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret was my undeniable favourite at the Fringe. Many have noted the Fringe’s recent prolific engagement with feminism, noting the sheer number of female comedians, dramatists, and poets that have been promoting their cause from the stage this year. It was wonderful to witness this phenomenon for myself, watching women come together on stage to make their presence in the art world irrefutably felt. This collective managed their act with skill, demonstrating how women might support each other’s individual endeavours without being subsumed into a faceless, homogeneous group. If you are a proponent of individuality within feminism, then this performance is one to watch. What is more, the poetry was presented with refreshing skill and variety, with the delivery being alternately aggressive, touching, and humorous whilst engaging with a wide selection of topics. Personal stories were both relatable and political, sometimes documenting the anxiety of being a twenty-something woman in an uncertain world and at others confronting the stigmas that can be attached to one’s sexuality, race, or class. These women are unabashedly determined to make their and other obscured voices heard, and I for one will certainly continue to follow their progress.

Sophia Walker Can’t Care Won’t Care This performance crackles with an angry frustration that it’s impossible not to feel yourself; slumped, hair pulled back, eyes glittering, palms sweeping her face in anguish, Walker is utterly compelling. The material is powerful enough, but the elegance with which it is put together makes this a truly breathtakingly performance. PW

Dave Williams Prufrock and Me Gently self-deprecating and quietly witty, Williams presents an intimate show which says something about why we read poetry and how we engage with it. KC

Geoff Winde Money Is as Innocent as the Gun His is a radical attack on capitalism, which he carries out with both playfulness and clarity in a three-part performance. BI

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