Camden Fringe 2010
Inside the M25: A User's Guide
Genre: Poetry-based Theatre
Venue: Sheephaven Bay
Spoken word performances and poetry are not exactly hard to come by in Camden Town, but to see two poets working together to create an hour-long 'piece' which unites their talents, varied styles and deliveries is something quite different. In this case, Richard Purnell and Gary (from Leeds) have created a show that captures London: not necessarily a guide, more a collection of feelings and impressions of the capital. While the completeness of the concept and variance in the performances was excellent, the over-riding sense of doom was a little too pervasive, leaving what should have been a fun evening a little sour.
Someone once said that a man who is tired of London is tired of life, which certainly couldn't be more true today: covering so much land, with so much to see and explore, London is not only vast but important: this is the town where dreams are made real, as well as dashed to pieces in a split second. While it could legitimately be described as a boulevard of broken dreams, this is not the side of London anyone needs reminding of, and yet is the side Richard Purnell and Gary (from Leeds) decided to pick up on in their combined spoken-word show.
While their pieces were excellently written and delivered, be they Richard's longer narratives or Gary's short, snappy and aggressive punches, the over-arching sense of doom and despair was a little hard to stomach. The main argument of the piece seemed to be that only Londoners know what London is really like, and that it's rubbish: a little too negative for me. While such rampant cynicism is often hilarious, especially when so many of the pieces were delivered in such a tongue-in-cheek manner, the moments of true hilarity were few and far between.
It's not as if this cynical view made the show unpleasant to sit through: it just soured the tone of a generally quite friendly evening and talented pair of performers. The quality here is unmistakeable: both poets know how to write a cracking poem and deliver it, although neither was perfect at either: while Gary's poems were slightly more enjoyable, Richard was the better performer. While the cynicism was distracting, the topics varied nicely and the way these two performers worked together was enjoyable, at no point more so than their excellent final piece.
There's quite a bit to criticise here, but this is still an enjoyable evening and well worth taking in: as stated above, these are both very talented performers, and the evening is generally enjoyable. If only their focus was a little more positive: there is so much about London that needn't be seen so negatively!
Reviewed by Chris Hislop 06/08/10