Drink, wordsmithery and a hint of chaos – its the Xmas Poetry Bash!

xmas poetry bashTheres drink, wordsmithery, a hint of chaos, an awful lot of ‘black’ and a ‘poetry boy band’ with the longevity and energy that perhaps only the Rolling Stones can match.  Even its most recent recruit has been doing it for 17 years (‘half my bloody life’).

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Colchester Arts Centre infamous Xmas Poetry Bash featuring Ross Sutherland, Luke Wright, Martin Newell and John Cooper Clarke.  The best goddam wordslingers in Essex.

Forget your Christmas Eve – it’s here that Xmas really begins..

Sutherland’s up first; his interests in games, playfulness, randomness and rules very evident in his brief set.  A parlour game based on IMDB easly segue wayed into a poem for a random audience member (Anson).  In his wish for Christmas musician Blair Dunlop asked for the removal of the i pod shuffle button

Sutherland comes up with a different answer, the shuffle poem – one designed to be heard in any order whichever way the shuffle button decides (the live version involves a pack of cards!!!).

Luke Wright’s interests lie elsewhere – in rhythm, story telling and narrative conflict dressed up in dandified comedy and driven by technical precision.  So we get the Fat Dandy , the ballad of Much Harpingon (which for a small town dweller cuts rather close to the bone)

and the cautionary tale of the Posh Plumber.  All delivered with Wrights usual jaunty, jocular style.  Catch him on BBC Radio Essex on New Years Day at 1pm.

Man of Essex, thoroughbred.

Lead in pencil, gear in shed,

Brass in pocket, books in red,

Always kept his ferrets fed.

(from Dead in the Barmaid’s Bed)

mnThen looking all the world like Billy Mac from Love Actually (the image being particularly acute as during the  IMDB game earlier  it was at the mention of Love Actually that the gremlins appeared from Brazil, which in turn led to Anson – you get the picture, or maybe you don’t!) Martin Newell takes the stage.  Gold performance boots, a black eye patch and a whir of arms, legs, hair and paper Newell is never anything but entertaining (even if he does tend to crack up on his own jokes before the punchline).  His extended Winston Churchill riff was particularly hilarious.  Like all great performance poets he skips from light to serious with a turn of the page, quipping some of you might even be here for some poetry, before taking a swig of something Christmassy.  Dark Days to Christmas and Dead in the Barmaid’s Bed find places within the banter (including much mickey taking of Wivenhoe – the town pyschiatry forgot), as do several runs of vodka chords on the piano. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Newell’s well worn but touching tones has becoming something of a traditional end point, but not before this brought the house down:

jccAnd to cap it all the man who never ages, the man who can play himself in a film set (recreating a set 30 years previous), the man who never seems to change – whatever the world (or indeed the Hythe) can throw at him.

Egged on by a now vociferous crowd this is an exuberant, endearingly chaotic set. Here he is in full flow…

John is back out on the road (in much, much larger venues than the Arts Centre from Feb 8th, details here).

It’s difficult not to raise a glass to one and all.  Even Scrooge at his very worst would have found it difficult not to have his spirits filled with Christmas cheer by the Xmas Poetry Bash.


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