Initial Itch is a very necessary night. It brings together poets, theatre companies, film makers, stand-ups and anyone else who fancies putting their art out in a comfortable, supportive setting. The crowd is good-tempered – as it needs to be when the acts are of variable quality – but despite the preponderance of dreadful poetry, this is an entertaining and fluid evening. Flat Rate Theatre's main-man Steve Redman is, fortunately, the strongest poet on the bill: his reworking of 'Howl' explains why he developed the evening, and rises above the usual obvious anti-Americanism and banality that marks too much of the night's political work. Martin Belk rants about New York, adding a personal touch and a dynamic stage presence. Meanwhile, a film about the dismantling of the Glasgow gallows brings a melancholy intensity and the Patter Merchants successfully negotiate a scene from Abigail's Party. Between these, sadly, are a selection of very poor poets, who tend to trot out lazy clichés about love or engage charmlessly with big political topics. Wordy and staggeringly dull, the command of both language and metrical form is often atrocious. In small doses, this is bearable but poet after poet seemed to declaim their words in the same toe of preciousness and portent.
The Itch prides itself on its eclecticism, so after a poetry-heavy first half it was good to see commitments honoured with some drama and stand-up. Joe Waterfield's character-based comedy was well received, as he channelled a kind of gentleman author persona and shared his reflections on train travel, opening with the gag "see if you can tell which bit I wrote on the train this morning". Like a lot of character comics, the jokes to rambling ratio needed work, but overall it made the grade. Fee Doherty's casual charisma and warm anecdotal style made a good follow up, and it was fun to see her really enjoying her time behind the mic with a story about childhood dishonesty, punctuated by plenty of spontaneous asides and wry interjections. Monday was also a chance to see an excerpt from Ruth Cockshot's one woman Arches Live set. Written, directed and performed by Cockshot, and focusing on the impact of a personal tragedy, it was a promising piece, experimenting with time and narrative styles to good effect.
Overall, this is an interesting addition to the Glasgow scene, and worth supporting. Hopefully, as it develops, more artists will bring along their work and expand the repertoire.