Pros: Two Little Ducks speaks to the present with unaffected language that cuts to the heart.
Cons: While the poems are all beautiful, the show’s impact could be enhanced with a shorter run-time.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, news crews filed report after report from places that might otherwise have never made national headlines. Towns and cities long-ignored and long-suffering were suddenly in the news for voting to leave. In poet Matt Abbott’s town of Wakefield, two-thirds of residents did just that. The question, a perplexed yet privileged commentariat kept asking, was why.
Two Little Ducks might be the best answer yet as to why Britain voted to leave the European Union. The piece is made up of poems written and performed by Matt Abbott, who draws upon personal history, contemporary observations, character portraits, and volunteering experience at the so-called Calais jungle to explore the present crisis, in all its complexity and contradiction.
Matt is supported by two excellent poets, Matt Nicholson and Geneviève L Walsh, who help introduce the night with contrasting styles and voices. Whether tender and dark or witty and lyrical, both explore mortal certainty and human necessity, observing and reflecting on British attitudes and culture. These performances leave plenty of food for thought and as such lead nicely into the main event.
The great strength of Matt Abbott’s Two Little Ducks is its language. Economic deprivation, far-right extremism, the migration crisis and the EU referendum are hardly easy topics to cover in poetry, especially in a way that isn’t preachy or pretentious. Matt avoids these problems with writing that is spare yet evocative, presenting complex ideas in a manner that is immediately understandable and emotionally affecting.
One highlight of the show relates to the Union flag and everything it symbolises. The flag, which serves as both prop and setting for Two Little Ducks, is thoroughly examined by Matt in a stirring rendition of all the positives and negatives that come with a symbol of pride for some, and anxiety for others. Much like the rest of the show, the flag poem does not just critique British culture, it also hints at the possibility of something more.
British identity does not have to be one thing. Two Little Ducks is important in how it speaks across political and social divides to argue for reconciliation. Through understanding lived experiences, historic and present realities, and looking outside of our own borders, we can hopefully reform our ideas about who we are and forge a more positive Britain, for now and for generations to come.
Two Little Ducks is a powerful look at Britain, Britishness, and Brexit, that blends the personal and political to tell the story of how we got here and where we go next.
Author: Matt Abbott
Director: Matt Abbott
Box Office: 020 8692 4446
Booking Link: https://www.thealbany.org.uk/shows/no-place-like-home/two-little-ducks/
Booking Until: This show has completed its current run