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On Monday 28th October 2015, I had the privilege of going to the Nuffield Theatre to watch a public address as part of the Soapbox Tour and Southampton’s So:ToSpeak Festival of Words which comprised sixty-eight events. Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for spoken word and performance poetry, allowed both amateurs and professionals to showcase their work.

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Upon walking into the Nuffield Theatre, I had expectations of sitting in the stalls and watching the poets perform on a stage miles away from me. Instead, I was directed into the Nuffield kitchen with a stage placed in the middle and chairs surrounding it. The atmosphere automatically filled me with excitement and intrigued to see what the show would entail.

The show was fantastic from the offset with the host, Matt West, performing the role of an air hostess and taking us on an adventure entitled `In-Flight Entertainment’. The first half of the show was made up of five budding poets brave enough to share their work with us: Bob Hill, Steven Holton, Dae Fletcher, Dave Allen and Damien Ovion. There was a diverse amount of topics covered, ranging from the migrant refugee crisis to the contrast between youth and old age.

Each of the open mic performers were amazing, but the individual that stood out the most for me was Dae Fletcher. The young poet performed two poems: Origin Story and On Crying in Public or Kissing Strangers. Her passion was evident from the beginning making me believe every word. Despite being young, Dae didn’t lack confidence and encouraged participation by providing the audience with a poem containing a mystery. We had to listen to the words in depth and try and figure out what it was. Matt West described her as being `the voice of the next generation’, a statement with which it is hard to argue.

In every small break before the next performer took to the stage, Matt West would inform the audience of what was happening on each day of the So:ToSpeak Festival, advertising Southampton and what it had to offer.

The first poet at the top of their game to put on a performance, was the finalist of the Spoke ‘N’ Word Youth Slam: Helen Seymour who `refuses to believe that poetry has to be pretentious, she just wants to tell you some stories’, did exactly that.

From her appearance to her interaction with the audience, Helen really got into her character of a young innocent child. Using her microphone as a prop, she swung it back and forth like the pendulum of an old grandfather clock, hypnotising the audience.

Helen Seymour
Helen Seymour

Next up was Justin Coe who performed his poem: Village Jesus. He utilised the whole of the stage during his performance, making it feel like a one man play. The topics covered were relatable for all and included puberty and the resulting confusion as well as popular political debates. After watching his performance, I will definitely look out for the new children’s show he is currently perfecting.

Justin Coe
Justin Coe

The emotive Shagufta K was next on stage, performing three shorter poems each with a strong folklore influence that had an immense impact. A memorable line, `lighten up, brighten up, quieten up, whiten up’, is basic yet bold in portraying the issue of racism, especially how it has been viewed historically. She performed with only a single light atop her position which added to the impact.

Shagufta K
Shagufta K

Jasmine Gardosi was fourth up, performing a poem around the serious issues of mental health and suicide. If the title wasn’t clear enough, You Will Hurt Her in Three Seconds, the eerie ticking clock in the background sent shivers down my spine. Along with these two factors and the words that were spoken `love is patient, love is kind, not self-seeking, no records of wrong, never fail’ and `just show me love’, made it even more emotive.

Jasmine Gardosi
Jasmine Gardosi

The final poet to perform was AJ Mckenna whose performance took an alternative approach. Mckenna had gathered answers to questions from previous audience members. Depending on the answer read out Mckenna was either showered in confetti or sprayed with a water gun. It was a lovely way to end the event.

Alphabetti Theatre - No Sleep Till Till Scotland

The evening was mesmerising from beginning to end, insightful into the way poetry can be performed as well as showcasing the talent of each individual performer.

As Matt West concluded, the evening was suggestive of:

`What it means to be human’.

It definitely opened my eyes to poetry and personally made me view it in a different light.

Matt West
Matt West

Whether you’re a literature lover or just love a relaxed but enjoyable night out, poetry evenings are definitely something to check out. Similar events at the Nuffield, include:

Poetry to Keep the Chill Out: 3 poets, published by Oversteps Books, read from new and established collections. (Alwyn Marriage, Denise Bennett, Joan McGavin)

When is it? Friday 20th November @ 7:30pm

How much is it? £6 (£5 for concessions)

Where can I get tickets from? Call 02380671771

451: An evening of open mic poetry along with guest poets.

When is it? 3rd of the month (Oct, Dec, Feb, April)

pete@applesandsnakes.org

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