A few Christmases ago, having been forced to watch Michael McIntyre’s BBC special, my complaints were met by my friend with a suggestion that I should “broaden my horizons a little more”. Anyone who has spent time watching fringe theatre will appreciate the irony of this statement.
But it’s a joke that has endured. Every time I invite said friend to be my plus one for an evening, whether that be theatre, music or any other art form that takes my fancy at the time, I will inform her ‘I’m only here to help broaden my horizons.’ It shouldn’t, therefore, be hard to guess what I said when inviting her along to Southbank Centre‘s Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry/spoken word event.
But calling Out-Spoken a poetry night is akin to calling The Beatles just a boy band. Throw away any misconceptions because chances are they would be utterly wrong. This is an evening overflowing with attitude. And that attitude is very much one of ‘F-you if you aren’t full of love and compassion for your fellow humans.’ So yes, it’s a Tory-free zone for sure. And OK, it’s also not strictly theatre, instead sitting on the boundaries of what we review here at ET: but then again if you changed ‘poetry’ for ‘spoken word’, which is probably a better description of the evening, this is an art form that has graced plenty a fringe theatre stage and is just one step removed from gig theatre. And that’s all the reason required to justify its inclusion. If you disagree, may I refer you back to the aforementioned attitude.
The evening is superbly compèred by self-proclaimed “butch dyke” Joelle Taylor. It’s clear much of this sold-out crowd are regulars to Out-Spoken, given the rapturous welcome Taylor receives. The first half flies by as we hear work by Daljit Nagra and Outspoken’s Artistic Director Anthony Anaxagorou, a name new to me but whose performance left me thirsting to discover more of his writing. There’s also a music turn by Mysie thrown in for good measure.
If the first half flew by the second breaks the sound barrier. Travis Alabanza is a name that has appeared on these pages previously for their acclaimed theatre work but to hear their poetry was a wonderful surprise, with its strong themes of trans acceptance. And then it’s time for Kae Tempest, surely the reason we find ourselves in the larger Queen Elizabeth Hall instead of this event’s regular monthly home of the Purcell Room. I’ve seen Tempest previously in full gig mode, but to see them recite their poetry adds a whole new level of intimacy and vulnerability to the writing. They have an indescribable presence as they spit out their words, beating their chest almost as a battle cry. It’s powerful, beautiful, uplifting and life affirming.
To wrap up the night, multi-instrumentalist STANLÆY is on hand. Weirdly this is the only time of the evening when words are not so clearly heard above the music – not that this in any way distracted from the beauty of the sounds produced.
Out-Spoken is a monthly recurrence, and whilst the performers may not always be well-known names, it’s an evening that really is worth checking out if you want to hear powerful voices and potent words, and to be in a room overflowing with love and hope. It is without any doubt a wonderful way to broaden those horizons just a little further, as I may have mentioned to my friend once or twice more as we happily made our way back to Waterloo Station.
Out-Spoken is a monthly event at Southbank Centre. Further information can be found here.