Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

A masterclass in pleasing poetry

Performance poets are coming in from the cold these days, what with John Cooper Clarke on Mastermind. So did the capacity Black Box audience yesterday afternoon, escaping apocalyptic weather forecasts and that post Christmas ennui to see John Hegley.

Hegley's shtick remains that of a slightly hacked-off geography teacher in front of an unruly class. A welcome smattering of children meant that the first half became a pleasing exercise in call and response, relying on his keynote theme of glasses, which are to Hegley what crows are to Ted Hughes. "What are we going to do with grandad's glasses?" dared to broach the subject of death, but we were too busy trying not to miss our cues to worry.

After the interval, Hegley's work became more directly autobiographical, opening with his grandfather's proposal to his French grandmother sung to the tune of the Can Can. He followed it with another welcome musical stretch, singing a dedication to his mother over a baroque Neil Hannon-esque backing track. These family poems show an advance in style and technique beyond the merely comic.

But soon we were all frugging along to the tight rhyming scheme of Guillemot, leaving the audience with the feeling of a euphoric classroom on a Friday afternoon. Which for a wet Sunday, was quite an achievement.

MICHAEL CONAGHAN

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