I’m not going to lie, I’m glad I’m reviewing this piece online because it has a lot to say – and it’s fast. Not only could I rewind but also find out more about the author’s past. And I could make it last.
Small confession, after just 4 minutes and 30 seconds of this spoken word piece, I’m already thinking in the same rhythm as author and performer Gemma Barnett’s honest, engaging and likeable lilt, that first paragraph is my lame attempt at an ode to her poetic performance.
This is a new spoken word piece ‘…to celebrate all the stories missed and shared’, containing over 500 amusing and charming hand drawn frames by animator Helena Traill. It begins by reminding those who perhaps live so high up in their ‘tall and important homes’ that the arts are woven into the very fabric of life. They may be hidden or inaccessible for now but they are what makes us human. They’re a human need in their many forms.
Barnett reflects on her past daily routines and new ones that now punctuate her weekly grind. She’s found art for free on her daily walks, bird watching and eavesdropping. There’s plenty to empathise with and recognise as she moves from memories to hopeful prediction for the future.
There is already so much work that is reflecting on the past year that, let’s be honest, is sometimes a little relentless in its repetition. I find myself just wanting to hear about something else, and in It’s Been a Year there’s hope and a determination so sure footed that you feel sure she’ll never ‘retrain’. I’ve found at times that the spoken word as an art form can grate with a tone so monotonous that I forget to listen to what’s being said. Gemma though, who in March 2020 won an Off-West end award for her role in One Hundred Words for Snow by Tatty Hennessy, is so charismatic, conversational and real that she can’t fail to communicate.
So, as we unfathomably move on even with the uncertainly that entails, I loved “we’ll crawl back if we have to”. Life affirming, when we need it most. The whole piece is accompanied by the soulful, distant background-of-a-festival music by Celine Love another of the all-female team.
Ok, I’m inspired. One more attempt:
What I think is fair to say is that not enough has been said, been done, by the purse string holders, by those that let the people in. Let them in, let them hear and let them feel. We need the arts. Let them reflect what’s real.
I can only apologise.
Watch this fantastic piece of work. Enjoy it, reflect on your time and appreciate the skills involved in this amazing, freeing art form! With no two experiences the same, it’s certainly been one hell of a year.
“So. Here is to all the art missed”
Written & performed by: Gemma Barnett
Animation by: Helena Traill
Music by: Celine Love
Produced by: RJG Productions
As part of sharing this piece, RJG Productions will be fundraising for Bloody Good Period, a charity that aims to bring an end to menstrual poverty. It’s Been a Year is available to view free on Vimeo via the below link.