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       Opening a new chapter for ‘spoken-word’ in Bristol, resident poet Byron Vincent welcomed Monday’s lyrical gathering with a brand new poem to kick off a brand new year in the Old Vic’s basement theatre. Despite the horrid weather outside, the first ‘Blahblahblah’ of 2013 attracted a very healthy audience as people settled in for a fresh dose of verbal medicine to cure their January blues.

      Revealing that he often remains friends with ex-girlfriends, Byron’s opening poem stayed true to his trademark eccentric style by envisioning what his future girlfriend’s, future boyfriends (or ‘BF’s’) might be like. Predicting a range of obnoxious, insensitive and arrogant boyfriends that would date this as-yet unknown lady, Byron amped up the surrealism as the poem progressed. Employing anaphora in his repetition of the “Your next ‘BF’ is...” line, each consecutive verse built upon this opening segment to deliver a series of ever-increasingly sarcastic - but entertaining - witticisms. This is a rhetorical device that Byron employs in many of his poems (“Dave, Dave, Dave!” from last month's Blahblahblah for example) and it’s an interesting poetical tool that really plays to his strengths. With the audience warmed up, on stepped the first guest of the evening.

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       Rhian Edwards actually had her first collection of poems, ‘Clueless Dogs’, published last May, which was subsequently shortlisted for ‘Best First Collection’ in the prestigious Forward Prize. In addition, Rhian has also won the Welsh ‘John Tripp Award’ for spoken poetry in 2011-2012, bagging both the Judge’s and Audience awards. With a string of impressive accolades to her name, this talented poet has been praised by critics for her ability to bridge the gap between ‘page’ and ‘performance’, a quality that she demonstrated in full force to Bristol.

       “I wander dreamless through your dialogues” opened her first poem ‘Tiptoe’, which set the tone for a supremely confident performance that was steeped in measured eloquence and fascinating language. Standing motionless with her arms locked behind a striking red dress, there were no distracting gesticulations or contrived charisma, which meant the audience could focus entirely on her words as she stared off into a distance beyond the venue.

      Drawing upon deeply personal revelations from her past, Rhian captured the audience’s attention immediately, pulling them further and further into a lucid world decorated with richly descriptive imagery. A great example of this was ‘Outcast Hours’, which demonstrated the multifaceted nature of her poetry against the backdrop of an airport waiting lounge. Employing a barrage of voluptuous language, thoughtful diction and adept alliteration, the audience were transported from the Old Vic to that airport lobby as each intricate detail and minute observation painted the scene.

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       After a brief interlude, Byron bounced back to announce that the next performer was one of his “all time favourite human beings”. With this extravagant praise lavished, Byron relinquished the stage to Elvis McGonagall who strode into the lyrical den sporting a tartan jacket and a flamboyant quiff that was well worthy of his iconic namesake. Elvis started performing poetry publicly in 2003 when he took place in the UK Allcomers’ Slam in Cheltenham. Finishing second in that event, the following years saw him hone his powerful stage-presence to win a slew of Slam Championships around the UK, before landing first place at the 2006 World Slam Championship in Rotterdam. With numerous festival performances and radio slots under his belt, McGonagall has established himself as a heavy-hitter in the UK’s poetry circuit. 

       Clutching a leather-bound book, his booming Scottish voice shook the room back to life after the interlude by dipping in and out of a series of intelligent poems that were playful in their content and style. Topics included poking fun at the British political system and its leaders, a brilliant reworking of the classic ‘If’ by Kipling (Rudyard, not ‘Mr’, he kindly clarified) and a unique ‘gangsta-rap’ version of The Queen’s Speech to mention just a few.

       Blurring the already-vague borders between spoken-word, storytelling and stand-up comedy, his performance constituted a melting pot of scathing social commentary and satirical limericks to form a hilarious alternative summary of 2012. Extremely charismatic in his delivery, McGonagall had the audience in fits of hysterics with his sharp observational comedy that moved across subjects by way of a series of witty digressions. A highlight of the performance was a contemporary take on a Brothers Grimm fairytale, which had been part of the ‘It’s Grimm Up North’ BBC Radio 2 series that marked the 200th anniversary of the Grimms’ publication.

     Thought provoking, hilarious and hugely entertaining; the first ‘Blahblahblah’ of the year delivered in all respects. 

 

Alex Saunders

Photos: George Dallimore

 

    If you can’t wait until next month when Rob Auton will be taking the reins in the basement theatre, be sure to check out Byron Vincent’s show as part of ‘Ferment Fortnight’ on the 31st of January at the Old Vic studio theatre.  

 

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