Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word Cabaret - Review

It's July. And you know what that means...

Edinburgh previews.

It's a chance for those of us who don't have the funding or the stamina to endure a month of improvised theatre, interpretive dance and political mime acts, to enjoy previews of the shows that local performers will be taking north of the boarder to the Fringe Festival in August.

Now, the quality of shows at Edinburgh is notoriously variable. But luckily for us, this was not the case in the Fountain on Regent's street last Sunday night. The Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word Cabaret was an excellent example of a great Edinburgh show: funny and thought-provoking, varied and exciting, a wonderful mix of poetic talent, diverse in theme and content but featuring poets of a consistently high standard throughout. 

Our host for the evening was Fay Roberts, a Cambridge-based poet, well known on the local poetry scene, both as a promoter and as a wonderful spoken word act in her own right. Fay had rounded up a group of incredibly talented poets to perform, and the audience were treated to work from Hannah Eiseman-Reynard, Sophia Blackwell and Tina Senderholm. All three ladies will be strutting their spoken word stuff up north when the Cabaret hits Edinburgh next month.

The night was made complete by special guest performances from Oxford writer Anna Hobson, Cambridge-based poet Hollie McNish and token blokes with instruments, the Antipoet. Further entertainment – as if we weren't spoilt enough already – came in the form of four excellent open mic performances from local spoken word acts.

The event was hosted by Fay Roberts, our poetical plate-spinner, who did a fine job keeping the evening on course and to time. Impressively attired in a lace corset and black boots, Fay tangled with a few technical difficulties at the top of the show, but despite wrestling with a temperamental microphone, she remained the consummate professional. The large and enthusiastic audience were enthralled by her hypnotic and lilting verse, and the crowd hung on her every word.

The first act of the evening was Tina Senderholm. This witty and vivacious performer had the audience captivated with her witty word-play and comic asides, and she interacted with the crowd in a way that made everyone feel part of the performance. Tina hales from Oxford, where she hosts the Oxford chapter of the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam Competitions. A whirlwind in feathers and a fascinator, Tina gave an engaging performance, touching on topics from being a grown up to the profoundness of cake, and her poem about the idealism of sex and relationships had the audience in fits of giggles and guffaws.

Next, Hannah Eiseman-Reynard took to the stage. Hannah is a native of North London and the editor of online magazine Whippersnapper Press, and she delighted the room with poems laced with puns and elegant, elaborate language. By turns comic and poignant, political and surreal, Hannah's poetry made the audience laugh and made them think, a dangerous combination. Her poem 'Raise You', inspired by an the arrest of the author while wearing a zombie costume in London on the day of the Royal Wedding, is a potent protest piece, and arguably my favourite poem of the night.

And still, the fantastic performances kept coming!

Sophia Blackwell had a completely beguiling stage presence. Her poetry was polished, fast-paced and insightful. A real acrobatic poet, Sophia's words filled the stage in a way that made it impossible not to enjoy every word. She really gave the impression that she had spent hours perfecting each verse; how else could it all have appeared so effortless? I'd recommend her poem 'Red Dress'. A relentless, darkly-comic poem celebrating the morning after and the night before, up-tempo and jubilant and so infectious that almost made me want to dance in the aisles!

Of course, this being a preview show, not all of the poets were able to make it on Sunday. So, unfortunately the Cambridge crowd were not able to enjoy sets from Lucy Ayrton, Alison Brumfitt, Helen Mort, Sarah Thomasin, Chella Quint, Ruth Dixon and Isadora Vibes. But instead, patrons of the Fountain were treated to some very special guests.

Hollie McNish, and Anna Hobson were both fantastic. In fact, the only thing that disappointed me about Hollie McNish's performance, was the fact that Edinburgh will have to miss out on her wonderful poetry. And trust me, it's their loss. Hollie's eloquent diatribes, looping rhythms and lyrical rhymes contrasted really well with Anna's truthful stream of consciousness and compelling free verse. The found-poetry gleaned from dating websites was a particular favourite of a crowd whose attention had not wavered once throughout the two hours show. And the proceedings were rounded off nicely by the mad-cap musical stylings of the Antipoet, who added some much needed masculinity into the proceedings – eyeliner and all.

All things considered, it was a real joy to have had the opportunity to see this show before it hits the fringe. If their performances are even half as good in Edinburgh as they were in Cambridge, I have no doubt that the Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word Cabaret will be a great success.

You can catch the Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word Cabaret at The Banshee Labyrinth, 35 Niddry Street Edinburgh, between 4th and 25th August. For more information, please visit the official website 


posted on 24 July 2012 20:15 byLeanne Moden


Literary Ely

A blog for those passionate about poetry and fiction in the East Cambridgeshire Area. We'll feature news, events, reviews and articles on the litrary happenings in and around Ely and Cambridge. Do you have an event you'd like to share? Email me leanne.moden@gmail.com