It’s a gentle summer’s evening at the local amateur poetry night. The angst-fuelled teenage masses have turned out in order to bare their souls, declare their undesired chastity, and proceed to humiliate themselves in front of old flames. As one might expect, particularly those of you who have indulged an adolescent penchant for scribbling sordid verse about how your life is like soooo totally unfair, the poetry recited embodied the vulnerability of lost identity and lovesick frustration. Following the recent break-up between dull Dan and jaded Jane, as well as a gaggle of caricatures confusedly navigating the world of love, Bedlam’s Poems About Things attempted a comic and engaging portrayal of poetry and passion, despite being unable to deliver.
As with most amateur dramatics, a certain leniency is given by the audience to allow for a slight fumble of lines, an awkward moment or two, and a technical hiccup of sorts. The youthful zeal of the performers is usually enough to enable the production to be charmingly entertaining. Although the University’s latest showcase incorporated a cast of hidden talent, and a few brief moments of comic smarts, the overall opinion of the evening failed to meet some already lowered expectations. Coupled with a meekly engaged audience, and in contempt of harbouring a potentially brilliant concept, the play was imperfectly realised, and at times rather tiresome. Split into two halves, both involving character recitals, but interspersed by an honestly disturbing performance of Toni Braxton’s Un-Break My Heart which involved shaving foam and mild nudity, the poetry itself was not good enough to be bad, yet not bad enough to be funny. Despite fully acknowledging its flaws, the direction indulged every aspect of the performance’s weaknesses and gratuitously forced these upon the viewer.
Relying too heavily upon genitalia jokes and an overuse of Nigel Farage related gags, a general unresponsiveness became the customary reaction to most of the play’s deployed humour. The layers of discomfort continued to liberally slather themselves all over the stage, particularly concerning a character possessed by a need to awkwardly recite his prototyped mental informalities. Much of the exasperation directed towards Poems About Things derives from a place of wanting to have seen poetry made accessible and enjoyable, instead of inept and tedious. The unimportance of what should have been the central, and stand-out theme of the production waned to a minute degree upon the introduction of a directionless Romeo and Juliet vignette, which seemed to have been more aggravating than amusing. Praise must be awarded, nonetheless to the actors portraying such melodramas, for their hopeful and enthusiastic tenacity which strongly aimed to override any apparent writing deformities. Potentially great but extremely limited, Bedlam’s latest arrival was one to miss.