5 poets to know…… (Well, actually 10)

I’ve curated a list of 5 performance poetry shows (from within the last 5 years!) that blend with other art forms wonderfully well.

The influence of other art forms on performance poetry is vast and diverse and mouth-wateringly rich, so picking 5 that combine art forms really well was a challenge, more so than I first imagined. Where does performance poetry end and theatre begin? I found myself pondering. What I came to was 5 artists who at some point have been described and have identified as ‘poets’ and who can deliver a cracking story, or indeed turn the idea of storytelling on its head!

These 5 poets have also had a personal influence on me and are often mentioned as an inspiration and influence on the South West poets I work with.

  1. Dry Ice Sabrina Mahfouz combines dialogue and accent to create such detailed characters that it’s hard to believe she is one woman or that she could create such depth of character with only a few minutes of writing. Dry Ice was the first play I saw where poetry was given the same space as theatre, with sublime staging, expert direction and strong punchy writing, it was a game changer for me.
  2. Schlock! – Highly skilled at vocal gymnastics, Hannah Silva applies choreographic practice to both body and tongue, dancing with soundscapes in this dramatic show. Hannah explores language in a physical realm, using sign and through cut and paste methods; the effect is evocative and deeply thoughtful.
  3. The Yellow Show – The godfather of surreal spoken word stand up, Rob Auton, cleverly combines comic timing with sparse and repetitive language simultaneously creating surreal yet mundane imagery.  In the Yellow Show, for example, the Grapefruit has never shone brighter!
  4. Above the Mealy- Mouthed Sea – Like a warm cup of cocoa aboard a choppy sail boat, Jemima Foxtrot’s poetry play combines poetry, voice and song to create a heartfelt story of self -discovery laced with lullaby’s and tinges of folklore.
  5. Let them eat chaos – It’s hard to write any performance poetry list without mentioning the high priestess of hip hop poetics but Kate Tempest’s Let them eat Chaos, is a striking example of ‘showing’ not ‘telling’ a story with a fierce mind altering urgency, it’s an hour after which you will never quite be the same.

And the best shows coming out of the South West

It wasn’t enough for me to write one list! Here’s my top 5 South West performance poetry shows that are well worth a watch

Sunked – Exeter’s answer to Rob Auton, Chris White’s spoken word comedy play about the Titanic is sprinkled with whimsical imaginative writing and even includes a Celine Dion ode whilst touching on the more serious question of class divides.

SEXY – writer, poet and burlesque performer Vanessa Kisuule’s debut play explores social and cultural concepts of sex appeal whilst shinning a light on her own experiences. With cabaret influences it features some sick lip sinking, great dance moves and various stages of undress.

One Foot in the Rave – An autobiographical poetry show by Alexander Rhodes  which follows the poet on his journey through a childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness to the hedonism of the 1990s club scene and features a banging soundtrack curated by Alexander who was also a D.J.

SPELLBOUND – Being the True Tale of a Reluctant Witch Unable to Escape Her Destiny.  Spellbound by witch, goddess, poet, comedian and singer Jackie Juno, is a courageous coming-of-age tale, Peppered with poetry, visuals and music.

Jeremiah – Rap Storyteller and theatre maker Jack Dean (Grandad and the Machine) brings us the incredible true story of the much misunderstood Luddite rebellion, featuring an original score and live band. Bursting at the seams with energy and visceral wonderful writing, the combination of live music and rhythmical storytelling are compelling.

These are all artists playing with Spoken Word as a medium and expanding the possibilities of what it can be, blurring the boundaries between comedy, theatre, cabaret and spoken word.


First Published October 2018