After a brief summer hiatus to recharge creative batteries, Blahblahblah returned on Monday the 16th September to kick-start a new season of events. Venturing into the Old Vic’s basement theatre after a two month break, it seemed that absence had indeed caused the heart to grow fonder as a sold-out crowd occupied every free space in the dimly-lit lyrical lair.
Opening the evening, newly appointed compère Anna Freeman welcomed the heaving room with a poem that had secured the slender poet first place in a recent 'anti-slam' competition. For those in the dark here, an anti-slam involves each competing poet deliberately writing the very worst poem they can manage and performing their efforts to a panel of judges. These resulting poems are so dreadfully awful that they transcend all notions of quality and become really rather funny. Turning a traditional slam on its head, the victor is the poet who achieves the lowest score for being entertainingly embarrassing or hilariously terrible.
Shrewdly mocking the continual trade-off that exists between global environmental concerns and the unsustainable demands of a tech-addicted world, Freeman’s ‘anti-poem’ was indeed terribly good. Laden with rich hyperbole to highlight the absurdity of a culture that thinks all problems can be fixed by the latest phone ‘app’, Anna infused a certain mellifluous quality into her delivery that was reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s crooning in his cringeworthy ‘Earth Song.’ Filling the void that Byron Vincent left behind was always going to be a challenge, but Anna is holding her corner well and once the nerves have worn off over her new role, this much-loved event will surely be in very capable hands.
Bowing out of the light, Anna made way for the hurricane of eccentricity that was Rachel Pantechnicon. An exclusive for Bristol (this was to be the only gig the idiosyncratic lady would be performing this year), Rachel dipped in and out of plastic bags brimming with trinkets and oddities that fuelled her wonderfully surreal set. Brandishing storybooks about the unforgettable 'Cheesegrater Leg-Iron Lion' one moment, before moving onto a cat-infested missing section of the Bayeux Tapestry the next, the endearing performer generated a sense of expectation as necks craned forward, fascinated and intrigued as to what would appear next. Pacing across the stage with eyes locked on the floor, the sporadic nature of the set was disorientating in the best way possible, leading the audience down many bizarre tangents to its abstract conclusion.
An energetic set from Patrick Lappin followed with the manic performer steering the evening into the realm of stand-up comedy. The Bristol congregation was treated to a fifteen minute snippet from his show, ‘Why Don’t We Kill Ourselves?’, which Patrick has been touring around the country this year making appearances at both the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe. Deeply personal crises were illuminated in a caustic and sardonic manner with Patrick stomping around the stage deploying raucous anecdotes taken from his sandwich-chomping uncle Rory. Building the set to an emotional climax that involved a feathered epiphany, poised elocution was employed to deliver a final devastating pun that couldn’t have been more tongue-in-cheek to close the extreme performance.
Molly Naylor has been making waves in the spoken word realm since 2010 when her first solo show, ‘Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You’, debuted at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to great critical acclaim. Since then the flame-haired lyricist has gone from strength to strength with her second live show, ‘My Robot Heart’, receiving support from major theatres including the Bristol Old Vic. More recently, Molly has landed a role as a television sitcom writer for Sky with previous Blahblahblah guest John Osborne.
From surreptitious crushes to a London-loving ex-boyfriend in ‘Shark’, Molly’s poetry draws its content from the key relationships in her life with the poet deftly highlighting the small things that make them so important to her. Balancing sentimental pieces such as ‘Fox Tattoo’ with nostalgic social commentary in ‘The Usefulness of Blame’, the set was accomplished in its versatility. Revealing her deep distrust of celebrity gossip magazines, one particular highlight came later on with the mock article, ‘Hot or Not’ which poked fun at the duality of thought prevalent in publications such as the “worst of the worst”, Grazia. Intelligent in its rapid-fire delivery, the poem bounced back and forth between opposing judgements as if flicking between the glossy pages themselves to close yet another evening of superb wordplay courtesy of Blahblahblah.
Photography: George Dallimore