With yet another sold-out crowd packed into the cosy confines of Bristol Old Vic's basement theatre, Anna Freeman introduced the March edition of Blahblahblah to an excitable applause. Briefly warming the audience with a piece that exasperatedly scrutinised Alanis Morissette’s hit song ‘Ironic’, waves of laughter circled amongst the room with each new over-the-top dissection of the pop star’s dubious lyricism.
The first visiting performer of the evening, Bridget Minamore, was a strong presence who introduced herself very much as a product of her fond hometown, London. Starting with some accessible, enjoyable pieces about life and the capital city, a solid benchmark was set. With minimal time spent dwelling in interludes, she quickly began to explore ever broader ground in her poetry. Not shying from more extreme topics, a move towards darker territory arrived relatively swiftly, “I’m trying not to plummet into the misery too quickly, but you know... hey-ho!”. More difficult to digest than her opening content, the lingering intensity left in the wake of each increasingly heavy subject proved a captivating challenge for the audience to process. Ending with a lighter piece to close her set, Bridget parted having displayed a strong skill-set that ably evoked a mixture of emotions.
Followed by the at-first-glance seemingly timid presence of Sara Hirsch, who'd endearingly edged her way into the spotlight, the crowd were treated to an altogether different talent. Without wasting much time Sara launched into a rendition, quickly growing in stature, volume and animation as her opening piece unfolded. Revolving around the minutiae, etiquette and anxiety of introducing oneself to a stranger, she regaled the audience with a sprightly performance that both examined how we choose to represent ourselves conversationally and questioned where we perceive our own value to lie. Resonant and colourful, this piece typified the enjoyable presence Sara brought to the evening.
Closing the March edition of Blahblahblah in the headline slot was Anthony Anaxagorou, founder of London’s acclaimed spoken-word event ‘Out-Spoken’, author of numerous books and, as was to be demonstrated, the possessor of a powerful presence on-stage.
Whilst performing only a handful of extended pieces, their execution brought an intense focus to the room and the sheer impact of their delivery was dramatic. Pacing the floor energetically and loading each word with an impressive sense of gravity, Anthony's command of the time and space around him was compelling. The imagery and atmosphere he created was as lively as the expression of his arms, which swept and jabbed around him as if electrified by the words themselves. Concluding his set with the formidable piece ‘I Am Not A Poet’, he departed having thoroughly stirred the audience with a unique and engaging performance.
Subtitled 'A Light In The Dark', this latest Blahblahblah event certainly didn’t shy away from exploring the darker sides of life amongst it’s moments of lighthearted fun; crucially common throughout the enjoyable meanders of subject, tone and delivery though, was a consistent level of quality that saw the evening fly by in an enjoyable fashion. With the visiting trio displaying their talents in hugely contrasting yet complimentary styles, it proved another inspired selection of programming by host/producer Anna Freeman, and a satisfying showcase for Bristol’s spoken-word fans.
April sees another high-calibre line-up planned, to be headlined by YouTube viral sensation Hollie McNish, shortly before Bristol Old Vic steps up a further gear for an extended Bank Holiday weekend of programming as April greets May. Dubbed 'Blah's Big Weekend’, this bank holiday bonanza boasts a wealth of accomplished performers (notably spearheaded by the critically-acclaimed maverick Kate Tempest) and will no doubt reinforce Blahblahblah's status as a leading light in the exciting evolution of spoken-word.
Photography: Darren Paul Thompson