Words In The City – Sunday Afternoon at the Stage Door

In this order: Nell Leyshon, Craig Chalmers, Grant Sharkey, In Conversation With Matt West & LST, Stewart Taylor
Sunday 30 October, The Stage Door, Southampton

I spent all Sunday afternoon at the Stage Door, which doesn’t mean I was hanging around for autographs.  SO: To Speak put on a free afternoon of scratch shows, music, and conversation at the Southampton venue of that name.

First up was Nell Leyshon performing Three Letters, which is scheduled to be part of the Hay Festival in May 2017. Nell gives a vivid and moving account of the experience of her diagnosis and subsequent treatment for breast cancer, including the debilitating side effects of the follow-up medication. This piece brings home the point that quality of life can be more important than recommended medications, and gives an interesting insight into the cold statistics used to influence patients’ decisions.

The next act , Craig Chalmers, introduces us to his one-man poetry jukebox. He invites the audience to make selections from the library on his iPad. Every request gets a special prize. I won’t give any spoilers here, but there are some very unique gifts to be taken away after the show. He writes about death, and life, and all the bits in between. Craig’s full show The Craig Chalmers Experience will be touring next year.

Grant Sharkey is a man with a double bass who is on a mission to make 2 albums a year. So far he has succeeded. Before long we are all singing along to sections from his latest release on the theme of Rupert Murdoch. The latest CD has been sent to Mr Murdoch, along with a letter challenging his distorted portrayal of the world. How long before the “dirty digger” unleashes his lawyers? Watch this space !

After a break Catherine Wright takes to the stage for In Conversation With … Matt West, and Leigh Taylor. Matt West will be familiar to anyone even remotely involved with the spoken word scene in Southampton. We are treated to some interesting insights into Matt’s early life and his unconventional career progression.

For the second interview, Leigh Taylor (aka “urban storyteller” LST) talks about his early interest in music, the ups and downs of being an emerging artist in the music business, and gives useful advice for budding songwriters on keeping material close to reality rather than trying to create a false persona. We are then treated to a stunning performance of three songs from his acoustic band.

To finish us off (and this is meant kindly, as he kills us softly with his humour) Stewart Taylor presents Spillage. A series of poems based on anagrams of the word “spillage” is cleverly linked with the theme of spillage of liquids. We are even invited to participate in a quiz about liquids and the correct way to deal with certain spillages.  This is not so much a spoken word show as a melange of drama, slapstick, and scientific fact. And thank goodness for that.

All in all, an afternoon of varied and top-notch shows – which probably explains how 4 hours passed like no time at all.  As someone who has spent many hours at the Edinburgh Fringe, not necessarily with the same level of delight, I appreciate the privilege dealt to the Southampton audience with this finely curated line-up.

This years festival was, apparently, a “holding event”, so watch out for a truly staggering programme in 2017 !

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