Barnstaple Theatrefest 2013
Mish Mash Productions, with support from Apples and Snakes (the performance poetry development agency), bring together poems and poets submitted to create this evening of spoken word. Now in it’s fourth year at North Devon Fringe Theatrefest they attempt, in their own words, to create ‘An exhilarating, fresh and moving exploration of the power of words, our distilled thoughts seeking to recapture the essence of a moment’.
As a whole the show is a joy to watch. An hour of performance poetry with no overarching theme or story could easily loose its audiences attention. But in the variety of style and content and the careful crafting of the show the audience is held, engaged and entertained for the full hour. Despite occasionally feeling like a conveyor belt of performers, it is the variety that keeps the audience interested. From seriously beautiful poems that require close attention, fierce performance poetry thrown at you to give a humorous take on social issues and a couple of songs from talented singers (which are well placed in the programme to give a moments let-up) the audience are moved between energy and reflection.
The show is really heightened when another performer joins the poet on stage, offering a reaction to the poem that is being performed. This is all the more powerful because they don’t use it too often, the poems that stand alone are left with the performer; Daniel Haynes’ poem ‘Sporks’ was particularly well received with it’s superb deadpan delivery. The use of props sometimes successfully drew the poems into performance; Sam Webber (performer) aiming, the writer, Marianne MacRae’s tirade about an under-ripe melon at the offending object. Occasionally, though, the audience could be distracted from the poetry by wondering about the relevance of the props.
With so many performers there are bound to be some that stand out and Robert Garnham in particular embodied the voice of the poetry he read. The audience can feel who is performing their own work. The very strong performances occasionally marked out the odd one that seemed to lack confidence. Where the tempo was too quick, or volume too low meaning gets lost. but these performances are few and far between, most are confident and engaging. In fact there were too many good performances and poets to name them all; Bryony Chave-Cox deserves a mention as not only the director who brought this unwieldy collection of cast and poems together, but also as an excellent poet and performer.
Overall the show lives up to its own description. It’s pace and variety gives a vitality that holds the audience captive.