Bearly Audible: Poetry Slam

Wed 26th October – Wed 23rd November 2011


Suze Swinn

at 01:32 on 27th Oct 2011



A relatively recent addition to the Wardrobe Theatre’s calendar, this performance poetry evening is well worth it. For those with a passion for hearing people say what they mean in a relaxed atmosphere, this is a good one. That said, poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (apparently not everyone likes tea?!) and the intimate nature of the gathering could be off-putting to some. This week’s show took on a French theme, due to guest poet Dizzylez, visiting all the way from Avignon.

Host Liz Greenfield started off the night, and contributed again at a few points, to an appreciative audience. Lively and friendly, Liz co-ordinates ‘Bearly Audible’ with a minimum of fuss, and plenty of encouragement to those around her. Her poetry, described as “brimming with talent”, comes across as a very personal outlet of emotion or situation, and is easy to relate to. This makes her all the funnier, as indeed she is, but in a gentle way that isn’t overpowering or in-your-face but, well, kind of cosy.

Throughout the evening the audience – small in number but nonetheless content – were treated to poetry from some varied individuals. An energetic guy going by the name of Ezekiel performed some poems and later on a song in French, as homage to the British inability to learn the language. Another, Andy, vented weary frustration at the flat-pack IKEA lifestyle, and the fragility of all it involves when our crises are no more than decorating the dining room. Performance poetry is an art form and an outlet, and in the Wardrobe Theatre it is appreciated as such – “I’m not condoning home invasion, I just speak in metaphors”.

The highlight of the night, however, was unequivocally the French hip-hop-rap-beatbox-poet Dizzylez. While almost all of his poetry is in French, this isn’t as much of a problem as you might think. Vibrant, rolling rhythm, more hand gestures than you can shake a stick at – hard to follow at times, but hardly more so than if it was in English. Occasionally you pick up words like ‘gateaux’ and ‘bateau’, but in general the effect was rather like catching a beatboxing moth, on speed.

“It’s a song about the planet…I don’t know that you got this? ...Never mind..”

Exhilarating, entertaining, but bemusing.

Dizzylez accompanies himself on a footlooper for much of it, layering the sounds and involving the audience – and we loved it. It’s no wonder he has won slams internationally. He’s a man of great talent.

The crowd grew across the course of the evening, with two short intervals allowing it to be more a social occasion than a performance. Bear in mind though that this is a poetry night in its earliest stages; try not to be put off by the idea of talking to strangers, because that’s what makes it good. That, and the fact that putting something into poetry is an outlet for thoughts, whatever they are.

‘Bearly Audible’ welcomes those who are seasoned poets alongside those who have never tried anything like it, which is one of its strengths. Yes, this does mean that you won’t always be hearing something to your taste, as the poetry will be varied. The small venue and crowd could be intimidating to those new to the performance poetry scene, but this is worth dealing with.

Overall, the evening seemed to show a great desire of voices to be heard, and the difficulty of conveying thought – whether a social protest at chain stores, an outpouring of irritation at posh bars, a personal difficulty or a great metaphor just waiting to be set free.

Poetry has come to The White Bear because it isn’t the rigid, aged preconception of poetry but a pulsating, rough-and-ready force. Let’s hope it stays there.


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