This ‘review’ was originally intended to be submitted to The Flaneur, the website where the bulk of my Fringe reviews from this year are going to be posted (eventually), but I decided it was a little too personal, plus, well, barely a review. A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama is a spoken word and performance poetry group based out of Peterborough.
As it happens, I grew up just down the road from Peterborough, and yet I was still surprised by some of the facts I recently learned; that Peterborough is, apparently, the birthplace of Pizza Express, which I’m not sure whether or not to believe since for most of the time I lived there Peterborough did not actually have a Pizza Express; that Warwick Davis runs an acting agency from Peterborough; and that Peterborough has a performance poetry scene.
In retrospect I’m not all that surprised that this passed me by, since I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly in my teens, but the fact remains: Peterborough not only has a spoken word scene but apparently a big enough scene for it to be possible to showcase the highlights of it.
A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama – or A Pint of Poetry and a Dram of Drama, as they prefer to go by in Edinburgh – runs monthly open mic nights and, very occasionally, performs at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year they put on two shows, of which I saw only one, on Monday 13th August.
So what did I make of the poetic highlights of my home city? Well, for those not familiar, I should probably give some context: Peterborough is not the most cultured city. It’s home to some of England’s most spectacular sixties architecture, created by bulldozing much of its historic city centre. It has an extremely dilapidated arts centre. It has two theatres, but I don’t remember either ever putting on anything interesting. My memories of Peterborough mostly consist of chain stores, pound shops, motorways, and an endless, monotonous beigeness. I’ve always thought of it as a somewhat soul-less city. (And before anyone takes offence, I must remind you again that I’m a local.)
So what are its artistic outpourings like? I’m not sure if ‘better than I expected’ is quite the right way to put it, because I’m honestly not sure exactly what I expected. Patchy quality? Most definitely. Clever wordplay? Not really. Tinkerbell, robots, and fabulous waistcoats? Almost certainly not.
As with any group that grows out of open mic nights, the quality was variable. Many of the poems rested more on wordplay than on ‘deep’ meanings and not all of the poets had the necessary stage presence to make their poetry exciting and interesting to listen to.
But the highlights of Pint of Poetry were actually some of the most memorable poems I’ve seen so far this month – and I’ve been to see two sets of published poets perform their work. I saw some poets I’d happily watch for a full hour-long show. My favourites were Tim Goodings and his poem ‘Massive Beard’ about the most beardy of beards he one day plans to grow; a poet in a fabulous waistcoat whose name I didn’t catch who invited the audience to share his love of Tinkerbell; J.S. Watts, the group’s only published poet, with her surreal and funny poems about the ‘mechanoid female’ scrapyard Sue; and Mark Grist, Peterborough’s poet laureate (another surprise for me) and his ‘love poem’ to Peterborough, warts and all.
I suppose the final question is: do I have a new appreciation for Peterborough and its artistic merits? If I’m going to be honest, not really. Do I have a new appreciation for A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama? Quite definitely.
As a final note, the point about it being the most memorable poetry I’ve seen so far this month still stands – the other day I went to a poetry reading I shall not name that almost bored me to sleep – and though the Festival of Spirituality and Peace’s five-day poetry event is about to start so my feelings may change, there’s something to be said for the uninhibited, amateur poetry of groups like Pint of Poetry and its total lack of pretension. Because if there’s one thing we all hate it’s pretension.