Poetry Circus fill the Bongo Club (an interesting yet not poor choice in venue for a spoken word night) with a sea of cabaret costumes: sequins, lipstick, coloured hair and stiletto heel glamour. As the audience takes their seats and the show begins, a soaring love song accompanies our opening film, a short tour through the greatest ‘oh yes!’ kisses of all time.
This is only the start of Broken Hearts – a night devoted to the heartbroken and lovestruck, just a day after Valentine’s Day. The ensemble which makes up Poetry Circus, however, is not just poets: the presence of burlesque acts, physical theatre, and music lend to the belief that literature isn’t just meant to sit on a page; Max Scratchmann’s show makes tangible an experience which is often undergone alone.
The evening’s main strength was the sheer volume and variety of the poetry on offer. Whilst some acts were more successful than others – as is often the case when so many performers are present – the acts moved through iteration after iteration of love, be it Craig Black’s love poem to Mrs PacMan, or Andromeda Mystic’s rendezvous with both a sex toy and a pornographic pull out. The performers’ love for love (or lack thereof) came through in many, many ways.
Headliner Angie Strachan, or ‘the poet laureate of Aldi’, is everything that spoken word should be: hilarious yet insightful, expressive but not excessive. Gray Crosbie is another highlight, with their resonant reflections on heartbreak injected with just the right amount of whimsy. ‘This one has dinosaurs in it!’, they brightly announce, before launching into a piercing piece about ‘the raptor in my chest’ which makes your heart twist. Annie Foy’s musings on heartbreak and how to move on make her the wise aunt I never had – ‘the inappropriate sex will mean you have to leave the house’, she notes dryly, ‘but this will reinforce your sense of victimhood’. Her words are met with a worryingly knowing amount of laughter.
Amidst a sea of talented performers, the evening would benefit from a compere. Whilst not always necessary at such an event, the grandiose tone set at the beginning of the night would have been carried through more effectively with someone to guide us through. And yet even this led to its own certain charm, with some poets like Maude Start starting their sets with heartfelt compliments to their predecessors, before reading her lilting, ‘daydream-esque’ poetry from a variety of notebooks.
Whilst the title may suggest a tone otherwise, Poetry Circus’ Broken Hearts is a night of joyful honesty, which lamented lost love with doughnuts, music, and even a love poem to Amazon’s Alexa. Max Scratchmann leads a troupe of fantastic performers, poets or otherwise, and leaves audiences with their minds opened. The group are set to return to Edinburgh on 10 April, with their show ‘Speakin’ Cajun’, and I couldn’t recommend a better set of performers to spend a spring evening with.
Image: Mio Miranda via Flickr