As a genre, Spoken Word is pervaded with stereotypes and preconceived ideas. What is great about actually going to one of these nights is realising that these preconceptions, and judgements of what thing should be, what people you know probably think about, diminish immediately when met with the reality of the performances. There is authentic emotion, insights into the speaker's cognitive trails of thought, homour synthesised with deep sadness and an undoubtedly uplifting experience.
Each time an Open Mic artist took to the stage at The Watershed, not once did their performance communicate what might have expected of them. Their poems always came with twists in rhyme-pattern and surprises in plot. This is what makes Spoken Word a really beautiful form, caught somewhere between the private and the public, the lone self and the self-presented-for-others.
So while in day-to-day life, our expectations lead us to make assumptions, quick un-thought-about-snapshot-judgements, in Spoken Word spaces, such judgments are always going to be disturbed. It cultivates an environment for people to publicly perform the fleeting thoughts that enter their minds for only a few seconds, making space for what people often never express or push aside to tackle the material realities we all encounter in everyday life. It is a form against stereotypes and for the sake of catharsis.
In Raise the Bar's Event, Ben Norris and Sabrina Mahfouz both gave performances worthy of their headliner titles. Sabrina read directly from her anthology of poems, How You Might Know Me. She confessed that this stopped her from losing her poems on a rouge post it note or Word document.
How You Might Know Me tells stories from the perspective of four different London based women, who in one way or another are involved in the sex trade. Sixty two year old Sylvia, who rejects payment in the form of Argos voucher is set up against a younger famale, who lusts after her long-term crush in the pasty shop she works at, wondering how he might know her.
Stephen Lightbrown was one of the night's first Open Mic artists. He perfectly communicated the transferability of metaphor. Seemingly speaking about the length of time it takes his beloved to get ready to go out, or how long it takes to please her sexually, his poem convinced the audience of his unwavering devotion to a lover. However, the last line of the poem revealed this analogy to merely be a dedication to his favourite dinner. The jacket potato.
Rosel Stern performance adapted the situation of a passenger on a flight to explore ideas of anxiety. Meanwhile Charlotte Stouter's piece should also be noted. It was addressed to her brother, and presented the interior moments of panic women face when walking down the street late at night.
Attending a Spoken Word event should be a crucial activity in your to-do list. It allows a space for the self - divided between standing alone and standing on stage - speaking directly from the heart. The form invites and allows its members to take their personal contemplations and make them public. Personal love stories, devotions to lost loved ones, feelings of fear, are just some of the topics the form allows for. It is a room where a wonderful ceremony takes place.
Elena Angelides, Theatre Editor