Spotlight September 2009

By guest reviewer and videotape splicer Norman Hadley.

So, Spotlight returns after its traditional summer break. This was the fourth time around at the Storey since Spotlight left that other place. The voyage was ably captained by John Freeman (also, incidentally, a sharp thumbnail sketcher) –

"Can yer tell who it is yit?"

"Can yer tell who it is yit?"

who also took some pictures, which are usually placed here

First up was open miker Alan Lowes, warming up the audience with a river of ribaldry about a male-nude calendar.

Alan Lowes

He then conjured a fine conceit called Lord of the Blings, with the underclass recast as a chavalcade of orcs and hobbitual offenders, This sounded like something Gary Hogg would write for Bernard Wrigley. Champion.

Next up Kevin Coughlan, unscripted.

Kevin Coughlan

He started with a fine piece, opaque and twisting, where jasmine could suddenly burst from an egg and the lightness of the image was immediately counterpointed with the heft of an anvil. Excellent.

Carla Scarano

Carla Scarano continues to impress as a performer working outwith her mother tongue. She gave us an extract from a travelogue, heading down to France and Italy on a family holiday.

When I first saw Michael Durrant do an open-mic in June, I was blown away by both the quality of his writing and his assured, unhurried delivery. Showing himself to be no one-hit wonder, he brought us four new poems, starting with the formality of a sonnet but showing dexterity with freer material as well.

What marks Michael out is his competence at making simple words work hard; thus a line like “her face….before my eyes, all before my eyes had time to adjust to her light”  is at once comfortable, serious and playful with the double-meaning of “before”. Catch Michael doing a longer set on the bill on December 18th.

Little Hero was keen to downplay his soubriquet from the off, declaring himself to be just Pete.

He was also keen to enlist our sympathy for a nasty cold, causing a few wheezes along the way during his first couple of songs.  With good interstitial banter and a twinkling eye he soon settled into the performance.

Gemma Arnold admitted to being crippled by nerves at the start of her on-the-bill début but did well.

A piece from her 16-year-old self showed the traditional apocalyptic preoccupations of that age but marshalled with discipline and promise.

There were dark tales of a mendacious friend and an excellent piece about unrequited love told from the recipient’s point of view. Sorry about the editing at the start of the second clip.

Julie Simmons performed three poems without any recourse to notes. The quote from Zelda Sayre set the scene; “I don’t want to live – I want to love first, and live incidentally.”

Julie ploughed on into brooding and unsettling territory, with desperately personal tales told with a breathy, pacing delivery.

I gather that Julie had planned to do more and lost her nerve. If so, it was not to the detriment – there was more than enough impact in this short set.

Mark Charlesworth continued the serious theme with a cynical piece on news values “A pretty adolescent makes a more attractive corpse” followed by an ambitious 5-minute poem called 11 self-portraits.

Lighter relief came when he invited the grinny tambourinist/guitarist/ bodhranist Mr Wyrd and floaty-skirted singer Róisín to join him on stage.

Mikey Kenny rounded off the night with a cracking set. Holy hell, that boy’s got a cracking set of tonsils. He doesn’t so much sing as erupt in a swoop of exultant, fluting yodels.  Flashes of Rufus Wainwright kept peeping through and I’ll wager his copy of Grace is pretty well-worn too.

The interplay with girlfriend Charley and tales of poverty and moonlight in Quernmore gave a genuinely affecting emotional engagement to the set. And the ability to take the piss out of himself, to whistle and wail like a Madagascan lemur on heat; was I too fanciful to hear a Freewheelin’ era Bob? Probably.

If it hadn’t been for running out of space on the video card, I’d have filmed his every song. I bought a copy of his Ottersgear CD but have not had time for a listen yet.

Another great night of variety, passion, humour and intensity. Next month’s Spotlight is October 16th. Be there or be insufficiently artistically stimulated.


5 Responses

  1. PS Gave the Ottersgear CD a spin tonight while roasting half an ox and really enjoyed it. The opinion of the ox was not recorded.

  2. Here’s a direct link to my September Spotlight pics

    Ottersgear regularly perform around Lancaster, check out for dates as well as their MySpace page.

  3. Yi cannae beat ay bit ay Pete (Rawlinson).

    Class act all the way.


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