Spotlight June 2010

It was a Spotlight of two halves (football references being the order of the night) with five open mikers and another five on the bill.

Kate Davis was first up, with three poems. Sadly for the camera, her set suffered from Paper-Over-Face Syndrome, so it was the last, unscripted piece that came across best from my vantage point, with more tales of pangolin-mangling.

Newcomer Carl Peters followed with his story Elijah. There were more paper-in-the-way problems for the poor cameraman but it was an amusing performance, steadily gaining in assurance.

Linda Keith impressed with some poetry promoting New Zealand every bit as effectively as Peter Jackson and the Conchords combined. Did anyone catch the title of either piece?

Alan Alvarez took us in an utterly surreal direction. Judge for yourselves.

Pascal Desmond was on top form – this was the most disciplined and structured piece I’ve seen him do.

Mihkel Hassan & James Edgar were an intriguing pairing, fusing up-to-the-minute hiphoppery with traditional singer-songwriterliness to good effect. James had bravely fought through illness to complete the set – whether the illness added to his Lamontagnian gravel-itas would be hard to say.

Joy Ahmed’s reading was themed, recalling a Black Country childhood with a tender but not over-honeyed gaze. Having both my grandmothers from Wolverhampton, I recognised the landscape as utterly authentic. We were even treated to a display of technical skill with a pantoum – an ultra-difficult Malaysian form. Good stuff.

Tony Walsh emits charisma the way an AK47 emits rounds.; it is physically impossible for a sentient human being to remain indifferent within a mile radius when he’s on stage. His Mancunian marathon Rain Dance dazzled the audience throughout, drawing on cultural references from Marx and MacColl to Giggs and the Gallaghers. The footage has not been cleared for public consumption but I am advised that there is a better version out there – as soon as I have it, I will post a link. Everyone should see this – the pacing and phrasing are masterly and there was more than enough recognition even for an out-of-towner like me to feel involved.

Mollie Baxter had a tough assignment, then, following on with her performance of Keeping Light, scripted by Blackpool playwright David Riley and based on one of my stories. But Moll played a blinder (OK, enough football references) and really brought the story to life. I had been a bit concerned that people’s attention would wander after twelve minutes of prose before the punchline but scanning around the audience showed that everyone was completely drawn in. Well done, Moll.


New Potato Scene rounded off the night in fine style. Their performance was propelled with so much brio that the odd stumble didn’t matter tuppence. Amidst the larking around, though, these guys showed they could carry off a serious song with class – hence my pick for the highlight of their set.

In summary, a cracking night. There are plenty more clips here.

Next Spotlight will be July 16th.

3 Responses

  1. Thought it was a good mix. Enjoyed Mollie’s performance – with so many skills I’m starting to suspect that at night she might put on a cape and fight crime. Tony Walsh was great too. Definitely worth seeking out clips of, though possibly some of the atmosphere he manages to create in a room would be lost in translation to film. I’m looking forward to seeing New Potato Scene again and I agree that at least part of the appeal was seeing how much they seemed to enjoy performing together. I wasn’t on top form this month, so on this occasion am actually a little relieved to have been excluded from the review😉

  2. Hi Simon. It’s fair to say it wasn’t one of your slickest nights but I now know what a heavy paper-round compering is so decided not to mention it. I think I lack the part-Doberman gene necessary to be a reviewer. It’s not a trait I’d want to develop myself but I kinda admire people who have it, like the person who summarised Lloyd-Webber’s ‘Love Never Dies’ as ‘Paint Never Dries’.

  3. To bite or not to bite – interesting dilemma. The ‘kind reviewer’ is almost an oxymoron! Compering is challenging yes, though as I think I’ve said before here, I think reviewing is also a tough gig. Not so much in terms of having to warm up a cold crowd or be spontaneous. More that the reviewer has to decide what to do with the power attached to the role.

    I agree with Norman that reviewers who dole out doberman style maulings are often entertaining to read (as long as you’re not the one being bitten), certainly more so than the other extreme: the creepy crawly (though possibly with hidden sting!)

    Most people seem to agree that with power comes responsibility, the only debate seems to be whether the quotation should be attributed to Roosevelt or Spiderman… Charlie Brooker has written about his embarrassment at bumping into a minor celebrity who he’s criticised in his writing. However, I get the sense this isn’t a common experience for the professional critic.

    On a national level, you just have to say what you really think but locally the reviewer faces more soul searching. If he or she is also a writer they have to decide how much to exploit their reviewing role as a way of promoting their own work. They will also have to report back on people from their own community who they have a relationship with: people they like or dislike; people they have collaborated with in the past or hope to work with in the future; people they have fallen out with or who could help give them a ‘leg up’ with their own writing ambitions. It must be very difficult to balance all of this against the desire to simply give an honest, unfiltered view. I don’t envy anyone trying to do so.

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