BEING BEASTLY: Late Shift, Poetry in Performance

Poets: Don Barnard, Christine Coleman, Bob Evans, Susan Utting
Booking information: Don Barnard
Runs: 1h 30m, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 3 August 2002, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham

A gentle but acutely observed look at ‘beastly’ matters, always good-humoured and sometimes discomforting.The four poets, who are Late Shift, take you on a gentle wander through the highways and byways of animal life, whether animals as animals, people as animals or people who want to be animals and all the grey areas in between.

Other than this there’s nothing very beastly about the evening at all when the poets wish to bite, they bite, but mostly it’s all mightily good humoured and there’s plenty of humour about. Evans, for instance, has a highly developed dry humour: his introduction to the evening is so laid back I’m surprised he can deliver it standing up. His quirky humour shows in his poem of the gangster hired assassin who killed Bambi’s mother, or his typo driven poem of the gnu (sic) slinger. Then he surprises you with a poem of a grey dog in the rain who believes ‘every man is made of stars.’

Gentle humour often surprises throughout: Utting writes of a man thrown out of an origami class for ‘phallic folding’ (the mind boggles), but then investigates the darker side of horses, writing chillingly of hobby horses or Victorian rocking horses. Utting further investigates the dark side of human nature in ‘The Man Who Killed Squirrels’. She forces us into an uncomfortable relationship with our own psyches.

The poets together turn childhood topsy turvy and we are confronted with the dark ideas with which we fill our children’s heads the Pied Piper from a lame rat’s point of view the Pied Piper with ‘dancing feet’ (Coleman), a dead canary (an oedipal Barnard), or children’s tales in general ‘the words of the book we are learning’ (Evans).

Barnard’s poems often work as a reverberating foil to the others’: his poems abound in wicked internal rhymes and offer an impishly perverse view of the world as in his Vulture view on life, or the story of the one-eyed, mono-testicled cat Mog who attacks a poodle called Rape.

Late Shift’s theme makes possible a varied, easy-going, relaxed and sometimes disturbing performance. Lasting memories are of Coleman’s haunting performances of poems that sit between dream and nightmare she describes her mind as a butterfly house in which the butterflies must be preserved in formaldehyde to create poems; and just listen to her describe herself becoming a seal.

Late Shift Poets:
Don Barnard
Christine Coleman
Rob Evans
Susan Utting

Late Shift have a series of performances like Being Beastly the others are Consuming Passions (food and love), What’s For Afters (food) and Love Bites (love).

2002-08-05 17:47:37

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