The Poetry Club: Neu Reekie @ SWG3, 22 November
Neu Reekie's reputation as one of Scotland's premier spoken word events is well deserved and hard-earned, and after making a huge success of their Edinburgh events, they have begun carving out a niche for themselves in Glasgow at the Jim Lambie-designed Poetry Club, located next to warehouse gig and club space SWG3. The interior is softly-lit, its industrial lines, exposed pipes and brickwork transformed with projections, custom-designed furniture including tables shaped like robots and fried eggs, and a smoke machine in the shape of a steam train. It's quirky but not brash – rather, Lambie has created a space that evokes the intimate, achingly-hip environment of a Brooklyn style bar – and it's the perfect setting for an evening of spoken word.
That being said, calling Neu Reekie a spoken word event is a bit reductive – they showcase short films, animation, music and dramatic readings as well as poetry, making for an evening of transmedia performance that transcends the often repetetive and tonally stagnant format of many established poetry nights. Add to this the fact that they attract some of Scotland's top practitioners and performers to their events, and you can begin to see why Kevin Williamson and Michael Pedersen's night has gained such a loyal following.
Tonight begins with an absolutely magnetic performance from Scottish stage legend Tam Dean Burn. Wearing a sharp suit and a leather pork pie hat, he launches into a grand guignol interpretation of a Bertolt Brecht piece, delivering a narrative about post-WW1 New York in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1929. His voice, his gaze, his movements are mesmeric - borrowing gestures from the jazz age, and using the microphone with dazzling flare to alternate between dramatic declamations and growled, snarling asides, he draws parallels between the roaring twenties and the present day, in front of a backdrop of archive footage of the city, and a soundtrack of jazz themes mixed together by Optimo's JD Twitch. It's a thrilling, visceral performance.
Graeme Ronald of Remember Remember follows, performing a short set of improvised ambient textures and soundscapes, delivered through guitar, pedals, E-bow and percussion. It's hypnotic and wordless, a perfect respite from the granite-hard glare of Burn's performance. Following on, Scots Makar Liz Lochhead takes to the stage, reading poems in a variety of Scots dialects, and giving a thrilling performance of the opening monologue from Mary Queen of Scots Got her Head Chopped Off. In contrast to many page poets, Lochhead is an enthralling performer, word-perfect on all her pieces – she has a relaxed, easygoing banter with the crowd, warmly telling The Skinny's photographer to "please fuck off."
The second half comprises a screening of Will Anderson's BAFTA-winning, Oscar-longlisted animation The Making of Longbird. It's a hilarious, inventive and justly-acclaimed piece, giving a fascinating insight into the creation of animated characters, and the breathtaking possibilities that can be explored with just a few simple lines on paper and a camera. Finally, we are treated to some rather limp Bertolt Brecht and Jacques Brel songs by Leo Condie and his band – of the entire night, theirs is the weakest performance, but perhaps only because the other acts shine so brightly. Partly due to location, partly the hip, cosmopolitan crowd, but mainly due to a scintillating set of performances, Neu Reekie Glasgow has that special feeling of being a secret only a select few are in on - you would be strongly advised to discover it for yourself when they return next year. [Bram E Gieben]