On Friday, took a trip into Beeston for a performance of 'Whistle' by Martin Figura. This was part of the Beeston Poets series at the library. The ingredients of the show consist of a poet, a backdrop of images and brief recordings of a mother's voice. Sounds straightforward, but the results are mesmeric.
When Martin was a boy, his father murdered his mother. That much I knew about the show's content, but the story didn't begin there. Martin describes how his parents met and married, had three children and were a seemingly 'normal' happy family. That was especially moving as you knew where the story was heading. It's not just the story though which makes the performance so individual, the show is delivered with some sharp poetry and carefully arranged images. Not just still photographs, but images which speak to the audience and establish a type of dialogue with the poems themselves. In the Q&A after the show Martin explained how photographs are like poems, which I'm inclined to agree with both in this context and in the wider sense. The narration was so smooth that when I picked up the copy of the book after the show I was surprised to see a collection of individual poems, almost thought at times I was hearing an extended poem.
The delivery was quite something. Most poets read poems with brief (or not so brief) introductions. They 'um' and 'erm' a lot, some can even be quite apologetic about their work. Martin's poetry was delivered with pure conviction, nothing was explained, everything was there in the verse. As a performer there was something trance-like about this, it felt almost like a spell was being cast over the audience. When the show finished everyone needed a few moments to come-to. There was a brief interval and then the Q&A which I've mentioned, and there were lots of questions, such was the interest in the work.
There are some clips here, and do take a look. Finishing though with a clip of 'Vineyard Boys' a poem about the Vineyard children's home to which Martin was sent. I love the way the children are described in a way which is moving and yet unsentimental.