Ross McCleary and Andrew Blair are becoming fairly familiar faces on the Edinburgh spoken word circuit. Between them they’ve been published in Gutter, Valve, Dactyl and The Grind; they’ve headlined Blind Poetics and Inky Fingers, and appeared at Story Shop and Illicit Ink. They are also the driving force behind the increasingly popular Poets Against Humanity, and the main reason I have any knowledge or understanding of poetry outwith Dorothy Parker, Edward Lear and John Hegley.
Last year they performed their debut Fringe show, Knife Whimsy, which won them the PBH Free Fringe audience award for Best Double Act, and was enjoyed by poets, pals and complete strangers alike. The trouble with poetry, as you may be aware, is that a lot of people don’t like it very much – or at least they don’t think they do. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you had a water cooler conversation about that great haiku everyone’s talking about? Ross and Andrew are aware of this, to the point that their favourite review from last year’s show, and the one they chose to use on this year’s flyer, was from an audience member who tweeted after the show ‘Who knew I’d enjoy spoken word so much?’
This year’s effort, ‘Is This Poetry?’ completely fails to answer the question posed by its title – but it’s very funny, and has some cracking stories in it. They get the tawdry request for cash out of the road at the very beginning and launch into the show with no explanation, reading from phone books (is that poetry?).
The show contains tales about everything from the nonsense drunk people spout in pubs to philosophising about empty billboards, as well as a full history of the city of Edinburgh, a found poem exploring what poetry means to different people, and a healthy amount of taking the piss.
The big shouty highlight (for seasoned viewers, this year’s equivalent of ‘R-Patz Factz vs Bieber Fever’) is ‘Poet or Edinburgh?’ Even if the rest of the show was bum (which it categorically isn’t – I’ve seen it three times so far and it still makes me laugh) it would all be justified by this excellent, irreverent ode to / send up of the city the performers live in, and the profession they secretly love.
Definitely worth a visit for fans of comedy, poetry and Edinburgh – also for people who hate all of those things.
Is this Poetry? by Ross McCleary and Andrew Blair is on at 8.30pm at Clerk’s Bar every night until Saturday 29th August. I will probably see you there.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, one of the performers in the show is married to me – but that doesn’t mean this review is insincere. To be honest, if it was awful, you’d be able to tell from my tactful silence – I’m not in the habit of telling my loyal subscribers to go out and watch a load of mince.