A chair, a poetry book, a man, and a bottle of water to wet his whistle – other than these there is no set and the stage is bare.
In his Slooshy Wordshow Greg Byron departs from physical theatre for the evening to give a performance of spoken word poetry, ranging in theme from science and quantum physics, to Brexit, to memory, to what it might be like to be a woman, and even on this particular evening, just 24 hours after the terrorist attack at London Bridge, to the Manchester bombing.
Byron is engaging, warm and attentive, checking for yawns, asking us who is a parent, who has cats, and offering each poem as if we were old friends sharing an evening together.
His reading is accomplished, and yet humble. The words rhyme easily and wittily and they’re delivered with a Northern twang that’s at once strong and gentle. At the end of each poem I find myself sighing, ahhing or mmming along with the rest of the audience. There’s something about good poetry that makes you recognise things more clearly, and at the end of the hour I feel like my life and the world have been thrown into sharper relief. I’ve made a mental note to tell my kids to visit their remaining grandparents more and say they love them. The poet says it’ll be too late one day.
There are also character sketches, cleverly observed lines about some of the eccentric individuals from a village he used to live in, and some ingenious 55 (not 54 and not 56) word stories.
It was hard to clap after every piece, not because it wasn’t moving or skilful, but because it nudged the heart-strings and pushed at the mind, in a way that made me want to ponder rather than immediately respond.
If you like your poetry performed and your evenings good-humoured and reflective, then this is the show for you.
May 28th 2017
Reviewer: Simon Topping
Greg Byron, the performance poet persona of actor, writer, director and producer Gavin Robertson, heads to the stage swathed in darkness; he steps in a slowly dramatic way. The lights switch on suddenly to spot an avuncular face resting his eyes upon us. Stood, with writers notepad in hand, Bryon softly begins the show.
With vocal rhythms often reminiscent of radio four regular Ian McMillan, Bryon regales the audience in a wide ranging of topics from his life’s minutia to social commentary; with 55-word short stories and comic nonsense. He promises us early on to punctuate the performance with some acerbic material, but only a smattering.
Byron is a masterful performer; with a hypnotic delivery that gently lulls the evening crowd. The portraits of people from an unspecified rural village are very funny and have us laughing hard; as does the very short poem about apathy.
A small selection of science poems, including one about the Fibonacci sequence, are an interesting listen.
The most impactful poetry is about the injustices and inequalities that lie with the UK today; four million in child poverty and a self-serving Tory government. “We are All Daniel Blake now”, Byron angrily exclaims. However, this is by no means a dour evening, it is engaging, warm and funny; well worth an outing.
Venue: Rialto Theatre
Festival: FringeReview UK
“It’s a look at all sorts of things – my 55-word prose ‘word sketches’, character portraits, science, and ignorance, the quest for knowledge, the current state of the world around us, confusions and cruelties…” – an evening of poetry from the legendary Greg Byron.
Welcome to an evening of like poetry; an hour or so in the company of Greg Byron, middle aged and ready to share his musings on life, on mortality, on our troubled present time of social media, of let down and even, occasionally, of hopefulness. A poetry gig, a spoken word variety show, a cabaret, this is low key, comedic, theatrical but mostly direct, spoken word performance.
Meet a performer with the courage to be gentle, yet that gentleness accompanies and delivers a power – a power in the words and in the delivery. Greg Byron is a creation of actor and writer Gavin Roberston, an amiable companion for the evening, he chats with us, gives us a wink and a double take, and yet is a soul who has lived, and gathered these poems, these observations, reflections along the way. They are, for the most part, rhymers, with sharpish meter. The rhythm allows him to protest, to ponder, to observe the quirks of life, and also to play with that rhytmn cleverly and add accessibility and entertainment to the proceedings.
No harsh poetry slammer needed here, this is direct performance, all the more impactful for its bare simplicity. A man, a set of poems a Dave-Allenesque stool and some clever, slooshy word play.
This show could well be a hidden gem at the Fringe. A gem it is for its clever selection of words, its skilled delivery, its courageousness to be gentle and allowing word-play and word power to play out as a piece of live literature that is throughly entertaining; those words reach us with ease and effect. But this show of words doesn’t deserve to be hidden. It will provide value and enjoyment for both spoken word and theatre audiences. Even a comedy audience seeking out a gag-free but warm smiling hour will be well served. Highly recommended.
Published by Paul Levy