John Cooper Clarke et al in Wakefield

I just had to write about my evening at the Theatre Royal in Wakefield last night (29.09.2013).

We arrived in plenty of time to have a coffee in the theatre cafe, and to wander upstairs to look around. Of course, I bought JCC’s collection Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt from the Waterstones book table. First published in 1977-83, here are all the old favourites that made me like him to start with.

We found our seats in the stalls and sat and waited. I looked around the theatre, a Victorian palace, all plaster moulding picked out in gold. The seats are comfortable, the old style theatre seats in red plush. The ceiling looks as if it was painted by Michaelangelo the day he didn’t drink his Berocca; all cherubs and heavenly, a Sistine Chapel needing a touch up. The decor was lovely. The swags of the stage curtains still had dust on that must have collected when Marie Lloyd was doing music hall. I was fascinated because everywhere else looked pristine. But I suppose getting up there with the dusting brush of your Dyson would be a bit of an H&S nightmare. There were floor lights on the stage that looked like little Tardises. I started to hum the Dr Who tune, and the friend I was with joined in, seeing what I saw. It’s good to have friends on the same wavelength! It should be said, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. If all audiences were that large and that responsive, poets would be happy readers.

Unbeknown to us, JCC shared the bill with two other fantastic performance poets: Mike Garry and Luke Wright. Mike Garry is a  poet from Fallowfield, Manchester and his poetry is humorous with a serious, political statement. That’s political in a small p, social context, not a ranting inter/national way. I loved it, must look for his book online. Being a Manc, he included a tribute to the Hacienda’s Tony Wilson. Good stuff.

Luke Wright is from Essex, Braintree, which he calls a misnomer for Essex. He recited his ‘Essex Lion’ poem. If you don’t know it, look it up, it was so funny; and so well performed. He included Posh Plumber and a poem about a boy at Charterhouse School who is obesessed with drawing penises on every surface.

After an interval, the man we all came to see, John Cooper Clarke. I was a bit concerned because before I went someone told me he’d gone off since he got off the drugs. He hadn’t. The energy of the man is incredible. He has an easy relationship with the audience, so it was an interactive event in no small measure. It is clear the audience were there for him. He didn’t disappoint. He performed ‘evidently chicken town’, obviously, and ‘i wanna be yours’. He performed poems we know well, and newer ones. The man’s a legend. 64 and still giving it out on full power. I’m so glad I went.

So, this was an evening of stand-up-meets-poetry. They hit it off very well. I haven’t laughed so much since I was at the Fermoy Poetry Festival with some lovely friends in August. If you get chance to see/hear any of these three poets, take it. You won’t be sorry. Unless you object to that ‘f’ word; then you’ll be very disappointed. But, hey, keep an open mind. It’s JCC after all.

I have to go. I’ve got to find Mike Garry’s book on tinterweb. Bye!

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