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REVIEW: Brighton Hammer and Tongue @ Komedia, 01/12/16

The Verse’s Tamara Stidwell headed down to the Grand Slam final of Brighton Hammer and Tongue which kicked off at the Komedia on the 1st December.

On the 1st December down at the Komedia the Grand Slam final of Brighton’s famous poetry group Hammer and Tongue took place. Poets battled it out over three rounds to win a place at the Royal Albert Hall on the 11th January. Hosted by the eccentric Microphone-air-guitar-strumming Michael James Parker one of “Brighton’s finest poets and men” and Sally Jenkinson, the compère of incomparable wine-warbled wit.

Every poet had a strong personality and theme which made the night a rare and ingenious plethora of poetical flavours. No one was alike. The first round included fiercely intellectual Chris Parkinson’s illuminati revelations on CCTV-sporting-wasps and dystopia dynasties, Robin Lawley’s bio-chemical blues in a geeky search for “limerence” (aka love) and Sean Baldwin’s garden mollusc turned sluggy Trump in Office.

Daniel Searle had a remarkable repertoire with the audience, mounting the stage flaunting a tight Grubbs Burger t-shirt he then exposed the problematics of the bread bap’s centre of gravity as ham and hope was lost. A hilarious and believable bio to the 9-5 worker his humour is drier than a stale loaf. “Who here likes Southern Rail?” He asks the crowd launching into a beautiful ballad of hairy arms, train and arse emissions. Daniel Searle is the Simon Wright of poetry, his deadpan delivery and simple stories frankly spot on.

Young Harry Barden rolled into the second round with his dental hygiene hip-hop, a passionate poem inciting teeth-cleaning morals then a motivational poem laced with the turbulent anxiety of life after death. His reading and timing was impeccable, clean concise and passionate.

Sophie Brown middle-class-kick-arsed her way to the final winning Runner Up. A total hit with the crowd, Sophie sums up life in this day and age… for her. Reeling through the list of wonderful things we preoccupy our lives with from laundry to language classes, to oh yes, cocaine off second-hand Cd’s and lovely little codeines as good as waitrose guacamole. There was no beating around the bush with a happy ever after because you’ll always be alone and your life is futile but not to worry darling! Her ludicrous tales of supermarket stalkers and a self-pleasuring Boris Johnson caught in compromising positions all articulated in fabulously flagrant zest.

19 year old feminist poet Ella Dorman-Gajic gave us a taste of her recently touring show “Did I Choose These Shoes?” Both poems were based on the struggles of growing up in the 21st century, objectification of girls and freeing the nipple! She has a powerful stage presence and a necessary empathy for the tenderness of the topic but she ran over time and was unfortunately wiped off in the second round. Ella has the searing honesty and boldness to break into more challenging issues facing women and I look forward to her future work.

Special guest and previous National Slam winner Solomon O.B took down the house for his debut Hammer and Tongue appearence since wining earlier this year. Captivating the audience with his slow ritualistic pace into punchy, profound and political prose, he could just as easy flip over a smile as he could drain a tear. Mixing it up in strange alterations of twists and turns he tells us about the foster family who bought him up, the prejudices still faced by the black community and never saying never, always following what you believe in. “Sorry another cliché!” he laughs, “I don’t even mean to do it man, I just really mean it!”

Blowing the roof off the Komedia with laughter and cheers, the winner of the Slam was scouse Roof layer AP Staunton. Sporting “Staunton’s Groundworks and Poetry” on his shirt, this tiler laid down the foundations of some truely heartfelt and side-splitting ballads to the ways of the proud working class. “Poetry is for everyone,” he began beneath his flat cap with a grin, “just like toilets.” Before sharing the tale of p*ssing in a posh person’s sink when fixing their roof in rebellion to their request of “tradesmen using the back toilet”. AP is a rarity amongst the often “exclusive” poetry community and as he proudly announced that; “Scum will always look after scum” there was an admirability in his Northern nobility. My dad being a builder and my mum having always taught me to be proud of “me humble roots” I felt great solidarity in his words. He ended the night with a picture of his father who he said; “would be looking down on me now with two thumbs up!” He said with a reflective “aw” from the audience. Then he continued, “I know he’s looking down on me, ‘cus right now he’s nicking the lead off the roof!”

I can’t wait to see AP and Sophie Brown representing Brighton at the National finals in January.  Brighton is an ecelectic bunch of folk and these two summarise the city’s qualities in all it’s diversities. From down-to-earth AP who built the main road into Brighton “working his b*lls off”; events like this are building bridges between our communities so we can all (like Sophie Brown) take a good long laugh at life and everything we pre-occupy our time with. May the Competition continue…

Support Brighton and grab tickets now for the two-day poetry extravaganza featuring poetry slam champions from Brighton to Edinburgh. Featuring special guest artists, Simon Munnery, Zena Edwards, Vanessa Kisuule and Hollie Mcnish. £20 weekend tickets are available for purchase in person at the Royal Albert Hall or over the phone. Box Office number is 020 7589 8212.

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