Pros: Full of honesty, humour and a word perfect performance, the sound and strength of Imogen Stirling’s words create a landscape that restores the faith in middle class privilege.
Cons: Spoken word performance is not for everyone.
Spoken word performance may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For many it brings to mind images of bearded hipsters in berets; rest assured that only occurs once tonight, and in a most amusing of ways. But if you were to consider spoken word as another form of one-person theatre, then it’s really not that much different. It’s a stream of words that tell a story, just as all theatre ultimately is. It’s just that this stream of words takes the form of a series of poems with their own styles and their own musical style to back them up, but all threaded together into one whole. And oh my, #Hypocrisy is such beautiful poetry.
#Hypocrisy begins with Imogen Stirling’s story of travelling, with all the benefits her white European privilege grants her. It’s only when she returns home to her beloved Glasgow that her eyes open to the hypocrisy of how we treat ‘others’ who travel to our country, judging them on their skin colour, their race, their religion. As Ian McNabb once sang, “I never saw my hometown ’til I went round the world”.
Accompanied superbly by Ross Somerville (see, this spoken word isn’t even a one-person show), quietly sitting in the corner playing his guitar, Stirling performs in her lilting Scottish burr, prose flowing magnificently from her lips. Even without the guitar accompaniment it would make such beautiful music. The interplay between performer and musician adds more to the show, the little touches that take this from a recital to a performance.
Stirling accepts how lucky she is to be able to travel so freely around Europe, an exile from her hometown, begging for her dinner, hitching for travel, but always with the backup of her parents’ emergency credit card in her pocket. As she recounts her tales, the hardships faced, the difficulties she overcame, Somerville is on hand to politely nod to the large sign beside him, calling her out with its proclamation of ‘not entirely true’. Because Stirling realises that she can always go home, she will always have a safe welcome. She calls out her own hypocrisy, recognising her white privilege in bold and humorous style. She recognises that the welcome she receives is not the welcome ‘others’ would receive – when ‘others’ means not white, not European, not privileged.
When she does return home she starts to see the hypocrisy all around her. And in her own small way she rallies against it. With Somerville raising the tempo, her anger at it all is clear to see. She calls out our hypocrisy of mourning one atrocity but not another, based solely on where it was, and who was affected. She calls out the hypocrisy of everyone adding a hashtag to their Facebook as a sign of solidarity to victims but then ignoring how so many others are suffering. She calls out the hypocrisy of how we look for people to blame, how we create fear and panic and yet seem blindfolded to the greater truths around us. She calls us out and it’s hard not to listen or disagree with her. But as she also says, “no one likes a moralist”. So she doesn’t preach, she just places what she believes to be the truth in front of us and leaves it for us to decide if we want to agree with her or believe what we digest in the media each day.
#Hypocrisy is a study in how we perceive those different to us, how we need our buzzwords, our half-truths to make us feel better. It’s a rallying cry for those who want a better world for everyone, not just the privileged. And above all, it is a piece of life-affirming artistry that can restore the faith of even the most downtrodden socialist in the audience.
Written, performed, directed by: Imogen Stirling
Music by: Ross Somerville
Playing until: This show has now ended its current run