Newly published (and critically acclaimed) novelist Anna Freeman introduced this October edition of Blahblahblah as a return to it’s traditional multi-performer format. This follows a successful dalliance with full-length programming having recently hosted 'Anthropoetry', the brilliantly creative Edinburgh show by Mellor & Steele.
Drawing upon a newly discovered goldmine of comedy found in a mis-translated travel guide for Granada, Anna read its ridiculous descriptions to much laughter from the intimate Old Vic basement crowd. With each preposterous statement from the clueless guide raising ever greater chortles of disbelief from the room, the ice was nicely broken for the evening’s first guest performer, Keith Jarrett.
Stepping into the spotlight, Keith beamed a big smile and spoke of his afternoon as a tourist in Bristol, having travelled west across the country from London. Settling himself into the groove, his first couple of poems explored the story behind his name and his relationship with his own reflection in the mirror, whilst establishing an easily accessible presence, peppered with the occasional, enjoyable pop-culture reference.
His third poem, ‘A Gay Poem’, saw Keith hit full stride. Assuming the persona of a disconcerted writer whose work has unexpectedly revealed itself to be gay, his bemused responses, frantic analysis of formative experiences and frenzied inquisition as to what may be ‘to blame’ proved an illuminating and frequently funny satirical spin on a parent’s rocky journey of acceptance.
Finishing up with the altogether different topic of his early rapping days and his first performances at church (with particular homages paid to Redman, DMX and other key names in the history of rap), Keith concluded his varied and entertaining set to a round of applause.
Next to the stage was Rosy Carrick, a strong character with arrestingly bright blonde hair, alert eyes and a big smile, who quickly abandoned the careful, affable air which had underpinned Keith’s set in favour of a presence that was shockingly blunt by comparison, though enjoyable nonetheless. Snatching the attention of the room to relay some unexpected menstrual revelations and kick-start her roller coaster introduction, Rosy continued in her uniquely jarring vein, leading the audience down murky, meandering corridors of unusual yet compelling content. With topics including trainspotters, seduction, Russia, time machines, Twix bars and her PHD topic/crush on poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (“v-sexy… although he’s not alive any more”), Rosie made a markedly memorable impact over the course of a relatively small set. Somewhat stunned though indeed entertained by the poet, the audience clapped appreciatively for her intriguing performance.
As smooth a presence as Rosy was striking, Richard ‘Dingo’ Dingwall steered the evening in an altogether more chilled direction. With Dingo briefly visiting Bristol as part of the recent ‘Jamaica Rising’ series of events in the city, Blahblahblah host Anna had seized the opportunity to add the travelling wordsmith into the evening’s schedule as a surprise for those attending. Complete with enchanting patois (though at Dingo’s suggestion, somewhat slowed down for the non-tuned ear), he delivered a charismatic and funny performance that earned him an encore. Though occasionally still leaving the audience playing catch-up owing to his accent and occasional colloquialisms, his hypnotic flow, exotic tales and confident presence made his brief appearance an unexpected highlight.
After a brief intermission, it was the turn of native Londoner Tim Wells to take the helm. Equally strong in both accent and in presence, Tim was an interesting dichotomy to behold. With his short-sleeved, chequered shirt revealing forearms branded with old-skool tattoos and an underlying hint of menace lingering in his demeanour, he seemed an unlikely proponent of wordplay. His able material and sharp wit quickly demonstrated both passion and skill though, and his talent was more than enough to endear him to those present, who enjoyed the quality of his work irrespective of the coercive swagger that interwove his tones.
Embracing his inner ‘geezer’ (which didn’t seem too difficult a task), Tim performed pieces in which he outlined the gauntlet that’s presented to those that dare to date his daughter, expressed a frustration with the 'hipsters' that personify the gentrification of his adored hometown, and offered a forthright response to poorly-financed invitations to perform at festivals, ‘£20 but I get to watch Mumford and Sons? F*ck off.’
By way of the horrifying reality of festival loos, clashes of class with an early girlfriend’s well-to-do family and a further breadth of topics, tones and emotions in subsequent pieces, Tim eventually gravitated back towards the subject of London. With the bitter theme of gentrification revisited through the remainder of his set, his resentment was clearly evident. Highlighting the actions of the most grating perpetrators (the experimental artists, the trendy burger bars and with particular vehemence, the hipsters), Tim’s performance offered an impassioned and fascinating first-hand insight into the changing ethos, demographic and day-to-day life of his capital city.
As enjoyable as his set was throughout, it was often the personal investment and authenticity he brought to the London-centric pieces which took the limelight, whether the dark dips into Ray Winstone-esque tales of the underworld or his fiercely concise analysis of the 2011 riots. Receiving a great round of applause from the Bristol crowd, Tim’s next visit will no doubt be an eagerly anticipated one, as will those of his well-received peers.
Another great evening of impressive diversity, Blahblahblah’s eclectic programming succeeded not just in its achievement of such breadth, but more importantly, it succeeded in the depth of quality that was present throughout.
Photography: George Dallimore