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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Door to Door Poetry: Nationwide

Rowan McCabe/PBH's Free Fringe

Genre: Spoken Word, Theatre

Venue: The Street, Picardy Place, Edinburgh


Low Down

Rowan McCabe is a poet on a mission. To connect with people all over Great Britain through the medium of bespoke poetry.


It started with his neighbours. Rowan simply wanted to get to know them. Then it spread to other areas of his home town Newcastle and the North-East. That was in 2017. Now, in an updated version of his successful 2018 Edinburgh Fringe show, Rowan is back to tell us about this adventures travelling the country, finding fascinating stories behind the doors of all four corners of the country, from the ‘most divided town in Britain’ to the ‘richest street in London’.

The core of the show is simple. Rowan knocks on people’s doors and asks if they have a few minutes to talk about something important to them. Predictably, many of those doors slam shut immediately. But the people who do invite him in all have intriguing stories to tell. Rowan listens, goes away and writes them a poem, then delivers it two weeks later. But what he creates in this show is much bigger than that. By working together his own journey, his fears about approaching people from different social backgrounds and the participants’ own stories, Rowan reveals an illuminating insight into the people of Britain in the 21st century. 

What makes this show stand out is Rowan’s consummate storytelling ability. Combining spoken word and theatre, he is an honest, luminous presence on stage, bringing a beguiling innocence and openness to even the most challenging of situations. Although the show reveals a huge amount about social mobility and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, the tightness of the script and Rowan’s light touch means that it is never preachy. Instead it’s a compassionate, lyrical elegy to the ever-changing face of Britain. One that shows that behind the soundbites and statistics, there are still actual human beings, all of whom have a unique personal history.

Like many fringe venues, the room at The Street  does not immediately draw you in as a theatre stage. But with minimal props, and his engaging presence, Rowan, like a modern day Chaucerian character, soon helps the audience forget that they are ostensibly in the basement of a tiny nightclub. The poetry blends seamlessly into the storytelling, making this a perfect show to take a friend to, even if they’re not fond of poetry. Rowan McCabe deserves his place right next to the fire in exchange for telling a story with true heart, a story even more prescient post-pandemic, and as the social and political divisions in our country grow.