Friday, 6 March 2009
Spoken. Word. Two such harmless pieces of verbiage, but put them together and people suddenly have other things to do. Although the idea of it appeals, I'd never actually gotten around to seeing (should that be hearing?) a spoken word gig. Thanks (again) to Londonist, I scored an invite to the opening night of the London Word Festival (check out the website if only for the daily random neologism in the bottom of the right frame). Sure, I felt like an impostor intruding on a sub-culture of which I knew almost nothing, but the local wordy-types were welcoming and friendly. Perhaps it was my man-bag. It seemed to be a compulsory part of the uniform for all males in the room.
Within half a pint of arriving, I was chatting to some of the 'natives' - one of whom is one of the very few born-and-bred Londoners I've actually come across in London. Despite the fact our origins are almost literally polar opposites, our views on life in the city ran along the same lines. Interestingly though, he professed that most of his Londoner-since-birth friends have absolutely no desire to explore beyond its limits, not even venturing to other parts of England. The concept floored me. Most of the world is on your doorstep, and (until recently) you've had the currency that makes travelling affordable, and you stay in grey, drizzly London all year round? Perhaps the wanderlust typical of the Australian psyche comes from something in our upbringing, or perhaps it's in the water supply. Who knows, it could be the fluoride. Maybe it does more than teeth.
As for the event itself, my performance poetry cherry was popped by one Tim Key and I regret it not a jot. Having no other performance poets to compare it to, it's easiest to describe it as like seeing a stand-up comic doing a particularly bizarre set, with notebooks. The 'golden fib' finalists ranged from touching to hilarious, and I may have embarrassed myself when I was the only person in the room to laugh at the joke about Schroedinger's cat. Tough crowd.
All in all it was a great way to spend a night out, even without the open bar, leaving me with an invite from the organisers of another spoken word event, and the lingering, haunting image of a girl, wine in hand, sitting alone in the corner of the bar playing solitaire scrabble... I've definitely never seen that in Sydney.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Remember life before TV? No? Neither do I. But apparently there was one, and if renditions of these throwback radio plays are anything to go by, it was probably a lot better than 'non-ratings period' back in Australia. I'll admit it: this sounds like a weird night out. And it is. Weird and wonderful.
On a I-have-nothing-planned-for-Saturday-night whim, I decided to do something unusual, and as usual, London(ist) delivered. Getting mildly lost on the South bank of the Thames, I eventually found the Swan at the Globe Bar... heading towards the big white Globe Theatre should have been a clue. Approaching the stairs up to the bar, I had fear in my heart. Venues co-located with tourist attractions tend to be mediocre at best. Crossing the threshold I couldn't have been more relieved. The clinking of cocktail and wine glasses, the hubbub of conversation flowing in the rather trendy looking crowd, and strangely, the tiny angel wings attached to the light bulbs, all gave the place a satisfying buzz. The view across the river didn't hurt either.
The above average dress sense of the crowd became apparent when the Fitzrovia Radio Hour kicked off. Although the performance is ultimately for podcasting, the chaps and damsels of the cast had set the tone in vintage outfits, and the regulars knew to, literally, follow suit. I've tried and failed to describe the show to people since, so I think I'll leave it to their own words:
We are the olive in the Martini.
Classic mystery, science fiction and drama radio plays of the 40's and 50's performed and recorded with style in front of a live studio audience, with live sound effects, then broadcast via The World Wide Web. Enjoy the simpler pleasures in life with cut-glass received pronunciation in a speakeasy bar.
We refute the notion that the well-crafted written word is dead, it's alive and well, living in Fitzrovia and wearing a tuxedo.
Thankfully, there's another one coming up soon.