Thursday, 3 May 2012

Anywhere I Lay My Head

Photo Credit: Jonathan Parker, Spurious Nonsense Art Photography
The third day of Trashed Organ’s Festival of Belonging Fringe, then. I’m beginning to feel tired, though that has nothing to do with the performances; more the fact that I’ve been drinking every night. Damn you, Central and Bridge Hotel, for providing such tasty ale...

Anyway, that’s off point. Day 3 started with Tony Williams’s workshop themed around writing poems of distance and belonging. We discussed work by the likes of Louis MacNeice and Polly Clark, before writing our own poems on what it means to think about home. Those of you who are au fait with my own work will know this a subject I am fascinated by and often try to encapsulate in my own writing, so I obviously enjoyed it. Judging by what other people wrote, though, it seems the workshop really tapped into some important ideas and Tony and the rest of the group’s feedback was altogether informative and inspiring.

I missed the first 5 minutes of Sidartha Bose’s Kalagora, slipping in as surreptitiously as I could. I have no formal knowledge of theatre production, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but I know what works well and what doesn’t. Kalagora sits firmly in the former category. Using the conceit of one man’s odyssey from Mumbai to Manhattan to the East end of London, Bose’s visions of the underbelly of modern life are played out as a relentless dash from innocence to experience. It is perhaps too easy to compare elements of Kalagora to Dante’s Divine Comedy or William Blake’s infernal London, or even Joyce’s Ulysses, but those are the works that this brought to my mind. Kalagora would be a decent show if it just stuck to that, so what made this dazzling performance shine was Bose’s energy – from melancholy to rage; hope to despair – Bose and his riotous trip across the globe brought all the power of a full-cast, 3 hour play and bundled it into a one hour, one-man (and one director) package that resonated far beyond the confines of its explosive performance.

Immediately after Kalagora was ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’. Tony Williams was on first, reading poems from his pamphlet All the Rooms of Uncle’s Head and his collection The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. Williams speaks in a kind of understated Derbyshire accent that could easily belie the authority and intrigue of his poems. From the ‘Matlock Elegies’ to a hilarious riff on a man stuck forever trying to fix a photocopier, Williams’s poems perform a kind of zooming function; a re-calibrating of vision which tips the world upside down and says, well, what have we here? His tongue-in-cheek musing on the still common practice of half-day openings in much of Alnwick was my favourite, giving a skewed glimpse of a forgotten England. Susannah Pickering was next. Another poet I’d not heard (such is the beauty of this festival), Pickering contemplated maternity, ancestry and the idea of ‘un-belonging’ in beautifully spare lines. I look forward to her pamphlet, due from Red Squirrel next year.

The first musical act of the evening was Simon Wood, playing a strange looking but incredible sounding Swiss instrument I’ve since forgotten the name of. Imagine a barbecue with various indentations and you’re nearly there. I apologise to Simon if he’s reading this for not catching the name of his instruments, but they sounded absolutely amazing and provided what can only be described as a brain massage!

After the break, Danny Hardisty took to the stage, reading poems about the loudness of the countryside. As a fellow urbanite, I empathised with his surprise in finding the countryside a loud and often foreboding place, particularly at night. Hardisty’s work reminds me of Ted Hughes, but is somehow absolutely nothing like it at the same time. In poems that see people and landscapes totally afresh, Hardisty’s language elevates these everyday scenes and throws them into an ethereal world. I know that sounds like a typically wanky poetry review, but there is something otherworldly and un-pin-down-able about his images. I bloody love them.

Sheree Mack was the last of the poets. She explored with candour and good humour the diverse nature of her background. Born to a Trinidadian father and a Geordie mother, Mack’s poems, taken from her first collection, Family Album, drew on her rich history and the friction that exists in belonging to numerous identities or communities, often simultaneously. A confident performer, Mack’s poems performed the spectral act of bringing the dead back to life. Very, very interesting stuff!

The evening concluded with a short set from Rob Heron of the Tea Pad Orchestra, but, like my entry, I also had to cut short my exit, making a dash for the Metro after only 2 songs so I can’t really pass judgement, other than to say it sounded great coming from the upstairs window as I made my way out of the pub.

Tomorrow: ‘I Don’t Think We’ve Met?’

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