Perfectly appointed to banish any dullness or ennui brought on by a mid-Spring – albeit unseasonably warm – Monday, Blahblahblah once again delivered the goods. Curated, compered and kicked-off by Anna Freeman, who offered some of her own brand of entertainingly witty verse, the frame was set for a stonking evening of spoken-word from firmly established acts.
Straight up was Adam Kammerling, who combined an achingly hilarious slam delivery that would render the most humourless of spectators unseated, with terse social commentary appropriate for our times. Kammerling, who is a member of underground poetry collective Chill Pill, is dynamic enough in his approach to allow the tongue-in-cheek humour to dovetail perfectly with indignation, life-observation and politics. A wizard of all things raucous – his ode to the squirrels that inhabited a cemetery close to his former place of residence, an example – he also delivered the occasional more introspective moment sincerely and deftly.
Aisling Fahey followed with heartfelt, confessional pieces that left you with no doubt as to why she has been selected as Young Poet Laureate for London. She offered a well-timed soothing set following the rambunctiousness of the previous performance. Her delivery has been noted elsewhere as warm – and this certainly came through with a tender flow, sometimes straying into darker themes but punctuated with levity. Fahey’s superb channelling of memory and emotion – from childhood in East London to family legends carried over from Ireland – was arresting. The imagery evoked by her verse engaged from start to finish; this, combined with her fluency and articulacy belies the tender years her Young Poet laureateship would suggest.
Hollie McNish needs little introduction. Well-established amongst the spoken-word milieu, having her poetry commissioned to appear on BBC Radio Four and performing alongside other heavyweight wordsmiths, she took a breather from a sell-out tour to perform. If any gap in approach between the first two – equally brilliant – performers was discernible, McNish nicely tied these up, providing the bridge between side-aching hilarity and touching autobiography. Most notable was her female-perspective retort to Flo Rida‘s ‘Whistle’ which had a spluttering audience hanging on each line, and her witty musings on death and family. Though established she is however no means establishment; her closing intelligent riposte to London-centrism a prime example. The audience was privileged to see an artist who is at the top of her game effortlessly and skilfully deliver at such close quarters.
While the basement theatre of the Bristol Old Vic provides an intimate performance space in any case, such was the calibre and audience engagement from the acts that the space pulled in even further. A palpably mesmerised and excitable audience savoured the evening – which seemed to come and go extremely quickly – from beginning to end. While all three acts were superbly unique, some common strands can be identified, which made for a perfectly rounded evening. All managed to be erudite and challenging without being inaccessible; all performed masterfully and maintained a massive rapport with the audience. The whole evening was enjoyably thought-provoking, often gleefully irreverent but never dull. All this for a mere £7; a chance to see a selection of the crème-de-la-crème of young UK spoken-word artists.
Blahblahblah once again curated a blinder for spoken-word/poetry aficionados and the uninitiated alike. For those looking to fill the void left between that exciting, liminal feeling from attending, for example, underground (yet often tribal) music acts and something a bit more nourishing for the soul and intellect, what happens in Bristol at these events is pure gold. With ‘They Are The Champions’, Blahblahblah continues in this vein.
Photography: Darren Paul Thompson