how many poets & vaudeville 100

A brief thought from all the poetry, music, performance nights I've been going to lately. There's far too much comedy around. I like comedy, but I find there's something deadening when nights of poetry and theatre, even music from time to time, seem to require most of the acts be comic. As though if it's live it can't be too serious or people might demand their money back.

How Many Poets Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb was upfront about what the content was going to be - the Literature and Comedy Festivals bringing together poets and stand up comedians to do between 2-3 minutes of poetry each. It was always likely that most people would do at least one slightly funny piece. As it was also an attempt on a world record, meaning that there should have been somewhere over a hundred performers, and as I was there from 8pm to 2am and had work only a few hours later, you'll forgive me if I can't remember everything that I saw. You'll also forgive if I don't feel inclined to go through the running order and try to give an account of everyone. There was some tremendous stuff, I've seen Conor Aylward a few times now since getting back onto the scene, and he seem much more relaxed these days - his improvised poetry worked well there. Dominic Berry and a few others did poems they can probably do in their sleep now, but no worse for that. By the time I got on, two or three from the end it was close to 2am and there were about a dozen people in the place. It was a slightly tiring night, but at least I wasn't organising it or acting as one of the MCs - that would have been tough.

As it happens Thursday was also my birthday, so I had the day off and managed to see my sister and some friends. I probably would have done something else with my evening if I hadn't already been asked to take part, but I had a good time. Besides, 39 is a bit of a rubbish birthday if you're into symbolic ages. It's not 16, not 18, not 21, 25 or 40, it's just a little bit superfluous.

And on. Tired beyond the capacity to make sense I shambled off to the Greenroom yesterday for Vaudeville 100 in the Studio Space, which I'd forgotten is really fucking hot. It was an evening of two parts. There were technically three sections and two breaks, but the first two sections were relatively calm affairs, while the last section shat in its pants then sat on stage trembling and rubbing faeces in its face. Metaphorically speaking.

Again there were a lot of acts, I'm sure one poster said 50, but that include the video installations and the live music at the end that I didn't see. Highlights in absolutely no order at all would be Conor Aylward failing to get any contributions from the audience and having to do a version of part of Houses For Mouses that he did at the last Vaudeville, Gerry Potter doing a great performance of three fairly recent poems, despite forgetting the one he's most familiar with, Tam Hinton's routine almost degenerating into free-form audience heckling and physical violence, the sponge puppet comedian who started and closed the last section, and probably some other stuff I'll remember later.

One of the problems with the final section was that it was a fucking long night, many of the audience and performers were pissed by that time, and the temperature was closer to a sauna than Manchester in October. Ok, that's three problems. Another problem is that there were a few acts who were so formless and boring that even my attention was wandering, and by that stage I could have watched someone prising the keys off their laptop with fascination. By far the worst was a musician doing very dull things with a guitar and pedals. He was followed (I think) by the standout bit of the evening, another formless and boring act. Three 'clowns' calling themselves Fresh Meat Frat who wanted to be confrontational, who wanted to tear down the fourth wall, and who wanted to provoke a reaction. The first reaction was resistance, people just didn't want to participate. And by the time they'd got their unwilling volunteers it became apparent that there was nothing more to the act and the reaction changed into a combination of boredom and hostility. I don't know whether they'd had their 10 minutes, it certainly felt like it, but by the time they were hustled offstage it was probably for their own good. Given the reaction to Tam Hinton later on from friends and drunk tossers alike, who was in control of his material, had Fresh Meat Frat continued any longer they were in serious danger of being beaten up by the audience. It's curious, they probably got the reaction they were looking for if not for the reasons they wanted. I'm glad I saw it.

Thankfully I slept last night, all ready for the next five (or possibly seven) nights out. Strangely I haven't lost track of the month, or generally even the date (20th, 25th etc), but have found myself confused about what year it was. Mostly I wondered if it was 2009 yet, or if that was already past. And for one vertiginous moment this morning I accelerated way past that to convince myself it was 2016 and I was remembering a time in 2011 when I'd thought I was in 2010 believing it to be 2009. All this without the use of drugs, alcohol or jetlag. Yay!

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