FringeReview UK 2017
Enjoy a night of rhyming with Dean Atta and Deanna Rodger alongside a menu of performers chosen for their wit, wisdom and ability to move you.
This nicely named literary event is one of those hidden secrets that you know happen behind closed doors in Brighton, but seldom have the privilege to access. I was fortunate enough to be invited in (though no invite is actually necessary- anyone can book a place) and had a very warm, friendly and entertaining night of poetry and food.
Loosely riffing on the ‘Come Dine With Me’ pun of its name, the evening is structured as a meal, with Appetisers in the way of an open mic section, then Starter, Main and Dessert being three professional poets reading their work. All of this is preceded by an actual meal of tasty Caribbean food with plantain fritters and jerk chicken being the highlights.
The evening is hosted by Dean and Deanna, poets themselves who run and curate the event. Their style is relaxed and informal, joking with each other onstage and starting proceedings with a couple of their own poems. Deanna has an unusual mixture of verbal swagger, crossed with physical contortions of discomfort onstage. As she reads her poem about a lost relationship, she twists and turns as she speaks, but all this serves to make her more human and endearing.
The ‘starter’ poet is Jake Wildhall, a young guy whose set starts off with jokes and stand-up style humour. Some of his poems are funny, and some reflective, inspired by the intense human experiences of having a child or falling in love. His first poem is a total torrent of spitting words, so many that it’s hard to keep up. It’s an impressive piece, but I’m glad that his other poems leave a bit more space for me to absorb the sentiment.
The main course is a great mother of poetry, a woman taught in schools and with a great canon of published works- Grace Nichols. Originally from Guyana, some of her poems focus on notions of home and fitting in. Yet none of these are maudlin in tone, instead they seem explore and even celebrate the sense of belonging everywhere and nowhere and having many places to call home.
Amongst her thoughtful poems are a few short and funny ones about housework, in particular the great enemy that is dust. They are punchy, silly and short, and provide a nice antidote to her more serious pieces.
Reading her beautiful poetry in her lilting Caribbean voice, Nichols has great gravitas and poise onstage and I really could have listened to her speak all night long!
Finally as the sweet treat at the end of the night we have the powerhouse who is Salena Godden. More so than any of the others, this is a poet who performs. She is loud, passionate and not remotely shy. One of her first poems is a violent ode to menstruation, the visceral details in her words are repellant and fascinating as she celebrates and bemoans this monthly experience.
She brings in the political to her poetry too, expounding on the subject of acceptance and tolerance, that is such a vital and important topic to cover through the art of words in these difficult times.
Godden is a joyful and exuberant poet who fills the small room with her speech, and is the perfect end to a lovely feast of language and rhythm.
Come Rhyme With Me is a very different and very enjoyable event, that I would highly recommend. Combining food with anything is always going to be a winner, but when it’s poetry of this calibre, it reaches new heights.