Gospel Choirs, Women’s Prayers And All That Jazz. (My Review Of The Fringe Of The Fringe 2015 )

Hey everyone It was in the calm of a sunny Wednesday evening rather than the usual surroundings of the Scottish Poetry Library that I performed my first spoken word gig of Edinburgh 2015. The event was held in the Constitution Bar in Leith and the fringe of the fringe organised by the well respected local poet Rose Ritchie and one of the best nights I’ve ever attended in all my 23 years of attending spoken word events. This was and I have to say it the perfect way to kick off my 11th Edinburgh festival fringe. So what made the night so special? Well there were a number of factors at play here not least of which of was the fact that it featured a variety of acts who were local, national and international coming from as far afraid as Canada, The United States, England, South Africa, Japan, and the People’s Republic Of Baillieston. The informal structure of the event added to the ambiance of the evening as the people were able to come and go as they pleased. This was particularly beneficial to those of us who had to travel through from a village on Glasgow’s outer edge. Well it’s technically just inside Glasgow but whatever you do don’t tell the locals.

Anyway, the gig had started by the time I got there so apologies to those I may have missed such as Jenni, Pascoe, Matt MacDonald, and Suki Goodfellow, but in a room that was packed to capacity I just about managed to find a seat to enjoy the excellent talents on show. The fact that I was able to enjoy such a vast array of performers with such a range of talents from so many nations and cultures made this Scottish internationalist one very happy woman.

The first act I saw were the Tshwane Gospel Choir. The choir who have travelled from South Africa to participate in this year’s fringe brought us not only fantastic harmonies but sheer raw energy and colourful costumes to the stage, they also brought joy to the audience and left us with a song in our hearts. From music we moved on to comedy and our next performer was a comedian from East. Now I should explain I don’t mean Fife or even Dundee I’m talking Japan and trust me Hiroshi Shimizu tickled my funny bone and I would recommend to anyone who has the chance to go and see his show.

Coming back to Scotland at least for a wee while my friend and fellow Glaswegian Lesley Traynor was next to share her talents with the gathering. Lesley who mainly performers under her own Lesley McKay to undertake this difficult task. Always an accomplished performer she wowed the audience with the quality of her work to such extent that event organiser Rose Ritchie said she could happily go on listening to her all night. I have to say that though Lesley seemed genuinely gobsmacked on receiving such a compliment it was no surprise to me as someone who knows her work well.

Keeping up with the international flavour event we had Canadian jazz musician Susannah Hood who captivated the audience with her quite stunning voice and used it to make us feel like we were in a Chicago speakeasy. This was jazz at its most jazzed up best and left the audience almost frozen in a moment of time and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting where I let the music take me.

How could anyone follow that I mused and believe me it wasn’t going to be easy and it was left up to American poet Vanessa Smyth was who next to share her work and yet again she left the audience wanting more with a set which was both well delivered and well crafted.

After Vanessa there was a very moving Ukalale set from Zahra who introduced her set by saying she wants to walk from Edinburgh to Egypt next year as part of her 30th birthday celebrations and raise money for charities as she does so but she will only raise the money for charities with no paid staff. This is a noble idea with which I wish her well.

Next up were in my opinion the best act on the bill. This was not the first time I had seen The Anti-Poets, I had attended their show at the Banshee in 2013 and was so impressed I ended up flyering for them. This however was different and it was great to see them as part of a larger bill, a bill I myself would later be part of. With fast paced work which combines poetry, music, and satire this deadly duo were on the ball from the moment they took the stage to the moment they left it. Topics covered in their set included festivals, children or to be more honest about it annoying parents, and reality tv, or to be slightly more specific talent shows. This was without doubt the highlight of a brilliant night for me and it was 30 minutes of sheer genius. This was spoken word with a twist, it was also spoken word at its very best.

At the end of this breathtaking set it was local poet Johnni Stanton who brought us back to the real world and his final piece Shopping With A Weapon In My Hand was both provocative and hilarious and did have me sitting rather uncomfortably in my seat .

Heather Turner followed Johnni and delivered an excellent set in which I particularly enjoyed A Woman’s Prayer which is a poem many women will love as it takes a look one of those supposedly forbidden topics which might just make men blush. Yes I do mean sex toys and let’s be honest I love them well I’ve never met a vibrator which has told me to shut up or even worse stolen my chocolate.

How I could anyone follow a poem like that? Well I was about to find out as it was my turn to entertain the company as I had to go earlier than scheduled as Lesley had kindly offered to give me a lift back to Baillieston. In a short set I performed two poems Tights Before Trident my anti-nuclear poem using the legally blonde school of economics. I followed this up with Does My Lipstick Scare You? a poem I wrote for last year’s international transgender remembrance day which was being given its first public airing. Both poems were well received by an audience more than willing to listen and enjoy the work of other performers. With this I made my exit and headed on the journey home. As Lesley and I enjoyed our well deserved bags of chips we reflected on the events of a very entertaining evening.

This was a night in which Lesley may just have discovered that she is a better performer than she has ever believed was possible. Though I always knew how good she is and as said earlier in this post I wasn’t in the least surprised at the positive feedback she received. When I asked how she thought I’d went down she said that the audience had loved it especially the second poem. This really pleased me as it was by far the more personal of the two and it was a difficult one to read as I had never it performed in public before. I said I was reasonably happy with my both my set and my performance and would give it an 8 out of 10. Lesley however said I was being too hard on myself and would have given it a 9.5. To get this kind of positive feedback from a friend whose opinion I value highly was the perfect end to a brilliant night, especially a night which had gospel choirs women’s prayers and all that jazz. This is the kind of night you can only find on the fringes of the fringe.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle XXX

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