On a dark, dank and quite frankly dreary Monday evening in the city of Bristol, a modest crowd congregated in the lyrical lair of the Old Vic's basement theatre for the latest instalment of 'Blablahblah'. After its action-packed unveiling last month, which offered up a plethora of poetical treats for those in attendance, the newly-branded event is building up steam nicely and I'm happy to report that last night's impressive performances only served to add more fuel to the raging fire.
Beginning the evening with a trademark bang, resident poet Byron Vincent leapt manically into the fray to open proceedings with yet another healthy dollop of thesaurus-busting witticisms and hilarious digressions that have come to define this most wonderfully chaotic of compères. Drawing the audience into the night, Byron plunged into a brand new poem he had recently penned which paid homage to a not-so eloquent elephant and Orville the Duck...or something like that. Byron often swings between branches of striking imagery with such frenetic pace that it's sometimes hard to follow his surreal ramblings but the raw talent of this gifted poet always shines through to achieve the same hilarious and captivating outcome.
With the intimate crowd warmed up nicely, on stepped the fragile figure of Anna Freeman, who is a firm favourite within the Bristol scene on account of her ability to deftly flick between extremely humorous auto-biographical revelations and moments of genuinely poignant performance poetry. Swaying in the small spotlight that bathed the stage in a warm orange glow, she delighted the audience by running through a series of poems that covered heart-felt revelations about painful break ups, the excruciating "joy" of being present at the birth of a friend's baby and the unusual attraction one may feel to a talented poet's brain. Freeman's poems always serve as a window into her mind, allowing the audience to glimpse back at a seemingly turbulent history filled with bitterness ("I hope you're satisfied!") but also great affection and love. With a relaxed posture offset by wildly gesticulating arms, Freeman's final musings on an intimate relationship of hers was tender and touching, resulting in a wave of appreciative applause that exploded from the ranks as she timidly ended her set by stating, "that's the end of that one."
Following Freeman's brief but thoroughly enjoyable set, a short interlude allowed the small gathering to refresh themselves before plunging into an hour of darkly comic storytelling courtesy of Ross Sutherland. With a string of impressive accolades to his name, The Times' "Top Ten Literary Star" delivered an eclectic performance that was fused together by multimedia accompaniments and slices of thought-provoking poetical ruminations. Employing a vivid storytelling style to narrate a fractured year of his life - a year filled with oppressive disillusionment and euphoric self-discovery - Sutherland's show 'The Three Stigmata of Pacman' deals with his deeply personal musings on the uncertainty of time and how our futures can be directly affected by what we draw from the past. Blending conversational discourse with powerful imagery and plenty of humorous anecdotes, the 'mad professor' explored the malleability of memory using a wide-range of poetical devices that helped trace his tale towards an emphatic finale to round the night off in style.
If you like what you've read here, I highly recommend tottering on down to the Old Vic on the 12th November where Joe Dunthorne and Adam Kammerling will be waxing lyrical for the next round of 'Blahblahblah'. It's sure to be a good 'un.
Photo: Darren Paul Thompson