Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret
Banshee Labyrinth, Venue 156, 29-35 Niddry Street
2.50-3.40 Recurring Event (Seen 19th August)
Review: Becca Inglis
Other Voices Spoken Word Cabaret is an all-female poet collective that aims to give a strong platform to “the voices less well-represented on the performance poetry scene”. Fay Roberts initiated this project upon witnessing a fellow performance poet asking on Facebook “where are all the woman [poets]?”, to which her response was to say “why don’t we show them?”. These are creative, driven, and entrepreneurial women, with Fay Roberts at the forefront of Allographic Press and Sophia Walker, winner of the 2012 Poetry Olympics and the 2013 BBC Poetry Slam Final, returning to the Fringe with her critically acclaimed solo play ‘Around the World in 8 Mistakes’ and her new piece ‘Can’t Care. Won’t Care’. The poets spent much time in between poems promoting their own and each other’s personal projects, so the group is evidently serious about thrusting female poets into the limelight.
The audience was engaged from the word go. Although the Cabaret theme seemed somewhat superfluous, the darkened room and sumptuous red décor did add to what Roberts described as a “slightly gloomy and intimate” atmosphere. Roberts, the self-proclaimed host, was at complete ease on stage, warmly welcoming the audience with a bowl of vegan sweets before seemingly absent-mindedly singing to herself whilst the audience clicked in time. A segment dedicated to open mic furthered this feeling of collaboration between poets and audience, this time with Barefoot Baker offering a description of alcoholism that was at once affectingly frantic and melancholy. His finish was met with a poignant hush, and Roberts justified the open mic segment by declaring “we have it because then we have moments like that, when the room is in complete silence”. This event certainly lives up to its description as “open-hearted”. The poetry is personal, the poets are direct and engaging, and the audience today was more than happy to grant them the noises of appreciation that Roberts had jokily requested.
Forest Fringe co-director Deborah Pearson has asked of this year’s festival where the shows that explore what it means to be a woman are. This collective might show this query to be somewhat reductive, since the variety of women on stage made it almost impossible to pin down any specific brand of femininity. Roberts for example was softly spoken, almost resembling a capella when she used her voice to sound a burlesque-style tune in which she integrated spoken word with a varying tempo. Hannah Chutzpah contrastingly followed her boldly onto the stage with the projected cry “Oi oi, how we doing?”. Racial, sexual, and gendered politics are all explored by Adele Hampton, who performed with Other Voices for the first time today, and Walker, who fiercely seized the stage with both skill and tenacity. Both separately uncover their privileges and the moments at which their identities become oppressed, with Hampton considering her comparative advantage amongst the African American community and Walker taking issue with the notion that sexist and homophobic language does not affect reality. The guest speaker, Paula Varjack similarly explored sexuality, adding comedy to the subject of bisexuality in her description of an adolescent decision to eschew ambiguity and “become a lesbian” before narrating an entertaining week of daily Tinder dates (“and yes, it’s all true”). This event manifests a fantastic opportunity to discover sometimes obscured women’s poetry, showcasing undeniable talent for multiple tastes and interests. As Roberts concludes the show, “we shouldn’t have to be Other Voices”, but whilst people continue to ask where all the women are, this collaboration will surely go on making their voices heard.