Edinburgh Fringe 2017
A rising star in the spopken word scene, Matt Abbott has recently shared a stage with Paul Weller, Sleaford Mods, Sara Pascoe, Shappi Khorshandi and Jeremy Corbyn. From council estates to the Calais Jungle, humorous and harrowing, celebratory and confrontational this is a vital and engaging poetic journey.
Let’s face it 2016 was a pretty crap year, and if you didn’t think so then perhaps Matt Abbott wouldn’t want you in the audience. Reeling from the shock of the EU referendum result, saddened by the rolling news coverage of Syrian refugees and the horrors of the Calais camps, and gob smacked that our American cousins (or at least some of them) actually voted for Trump this is poetry to help us reflect on where we are now. Abbott is a veteran of the indie music scene as well as an accomplished performance poet so this set is delivered with the energy and commitment you would expect from someone not only intent on keeping us politically aware through the stories of individual citizens but also finding his artistic voice to entertain us too.
In one of Underbelly Cowgate’s stone-walled spaces it feels appropriate that we climb a spiral staircase to hear performance at its most basic and intense – a man and his voice. Abbot tells us the story of 2016 from his experiences volunteering at the Jungle, observations of working class Yorkshire and Essex and, through the eyes of Maria, what it is like to not ask for much and receive even less. Wry and observational, quite often provoking laughter, this is a journey through an England that is home to the angry far right, the despairing left and a host of characters caught and damaged by austerity.
Individual poems tackle getting lost in Calais wearing the wrong clothes for the weather, shagging in a two person tent at a festival, the smell of the loo on a mega-bus and the delight of eating the best pies in Yorkshire on a Friday night. His love of writing started in school, driven by admiration for his hero John Cooper Clarke and now he writes for his words to be spoken, wary of things that are a bit ‘pagey’. As he says he learns from writing and performing; his best poems get better, the weaker ones fall off the set list. Two Little Ducks is getting its world premiere at the Fringe, although Abbott scoffs at that grand notion, but he readily shares that the show he brought at the start of the festival has developed every day that he has delivered it. Judging by the diverse ages of his very appreciative audience this is a show that already appeals to a wide range of people and will continue to do so when he takes it on tour next year.