Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Kat Francois’

Review: Sage & Time’s 2nd Birthday 18/07/12

In Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on February 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

– reviewed by James Webster, Dana Bubulj and Koel Mukherjee –


The Birthday Boy, um, Girl, um, Evening.

Regular readers will know I’ve hardly been restrained in my love of Sage & Time. The brainchild of Anna Le and home of the Dirty Hands collective, it has been a welcome mainstay of my spoken word experience and that’s why it was so lovely to attend its 2nd birthday party back in July. The evening had an uplifting celebratory feel that was reinforced by the various poems from both the regular and newer performers and it was all totally lovely.

No party’s complete without an excellent host …

The evening was hosted by the confident and fiercely warm Kat Francois, who was always quick to quip and jest with the audience. She focused us into rapt silence before the performances, and provoked rapturous applause after them; you can really see how her experience as a stand-up comic has honed her crowd-handling skills. Francois kicked things off with a machine-gun rata-tat of words explaining why she performs. It was a storm of a poem, stressing the importance of poetry, claiming her place on the stage and asserting her ownership of words. And ‘I Love Being a Woman’ was amazing fun, full of sing-song joy, sensual language, silly orgasm noises, and a perceptive take on the give-and-take of relationships (though it was a bit odd that a poem with that title was all about her relationship with a man). Top stuff.

The party’s welcome guests – highlights of the Open Mic

  • Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, S&T regular, kicked off the open mic with a quick and powerful flash of a poem on Usain Bolt, before giving us an incredibly sweet take on his youthful gawkish self’s inability to dance.
  • Elaine O’Neil then showed off her way with words with ‘Light Rail’. I really enjoyed how she penciled in the potential of the places railways can take you to, and she took us on a witty and intelligent journey from hope to capitalism.
  • The Wizard of Skill gave his usual madcap performance, full of amusing repetition and imaginative phrasing. Though, some might say that the repetition and disparate references that characterise his offbeat style sacrifices structure and progression.
  • Jazz Man John’s ‘Advice to Young Poets’ was a short piece on classic poets that was nicely witty (if a bit off-kilter).
  • Anna Em’s ‘Chain Letter’ was impressively haunting, had some good natural and supernatural imagery and some killer lines like “he counts his lost days on a calendar of broken dreams”.
  • Errol McGlashen’s ‘One Drop’ (inspired by Stephen Lawrence) was full of powerful rhythm, ranging across civil rights history to a brutal depiction of Lawrence’s death. It was powerful and chilling (and occasionally very funny).
  • Jill Abram performed ‘I have Forgotten my Father’, an endearingly nostalgic piece that was full of touchingly tiny remembered details that captured the miracle-magic that parents can make for their children.
  • Achilles read ‘My Finger’, an amusing take on technology making fingers obsolete that elicited ripples of laughter from the audience.
  • Richard Watkins had some wonderfully tinkly sing-song language in his piece that was a celebration of the mineral world and send-up of the material world. The point was a bit hackneyed, but it worked.
  • Tim Wells gave two poems, the first a witty ‘love poem to anger’, while the second was dedicated to girls his daughter’s age who date hipsters with “tight trousers, a weak moustache and pox” and was super-bleak, but much fun.
  • Koel Mukherjee’s ‘Love Poem to the Universe’ was a stunning mix of pure beauty and ultimate whimsy. Having started performing at S&T only recently, she had clearly grown massively in confidence to reinforce her heady talent with words.
  • Edward Unique’s piece ‘The Rainforests’ came together really well, mixing images together into a cohesive whole he sometimes struggles to achieve with his plurality of ideas.

The guests of honour – Features

  • Anna Le performed two pieces herself, the first ‘What is it?’ was an evocative and endearing description of walking into an open mic for the first time and segueing on to sum up some of the lovely things about Sage & Time (“S&T loves the jokes, but doesn’t need the happy every after”). And her ‘All the While’ was especially heartfelt on the night, its verse reaching out to you, the cadences rising and dropping just as you think it’s going to peak.
  • Lettie McKie: Lettie’s first poem was a humorous take on getting groped on the tube, which hilariously summed up a familiar feeling, but didn’t seem to offer any new/interesting perspective. That said, her performance (complete with amped-up middle class voice) was top notch.
  • While her second was a poem of two halves, the first essentially a very well constructed list of minor annoyances and first world problems that combined to blow each other out of all proportion. While the over the top hatred of life was fun, it didn’t really speak to me and felt a bit trite. The second half, however, was a lovely, soft and tender piece on the joy of words, friends and people’s differences and segued charmingly into congratulations for Sage & Time’s 2nd Birthday.
  • Keith Jarrett is a charming performer. Coupling intense and lush poetry with a winning stage presence, he started with an awesome piece made entirely of references to the previous performer’s poems that was a lovely and inclusive way to start his set. He also performed a fun, lyrical and accessible poem that was great on how the young construct their sense of selves and sense of ‘cool’ and also turned into a surprisingly good sing-a-long. It was rich with nostalgia and warmth and it really invited the audience into his reminisces.
  • Amy Acre continued the trend of poems celebrating Sage & Time with an immensely fun rap to introduce herself to the stage. She followed up with ‘Run’, a poem apparently inspired by a woman she met travelling in Nepal. Now … I’m usually wary of this kind of introduction, as far too often it leads solely to a vacuous poem that either reduces the locations talked of to mere exoticism or exposes nothing but the poet’s own privilege. However, this piece was a beautifully simple and incredibly powerful poem on gender disparity and the dangers of tradition for tradition’s sake that actually acknowledged the speaker’s own privilege along the way. Gorgeous stuff.
  • James Webster performed “Flat-Pack Lover”, his contribution to the Penning Perfumes collection of poetry inspired by different scents. The imagery was a rich, sensual, slightly quirky jumble, describing a personified piece of furniture, a warm, inviting, pinewood-and-brass lover. This was followed by a lovely tribute rooted in the there-and-then – “The House of Sage and Time” imagined Sage & Time as a home, the walls made of words that you could spend a hundred years reading, the spice cupboard full of sage, and the doors only open to those with “words in their hearts and fire on their tongues” – an electrifying statement of welcome and intent for anybody who loves poetry.
  • Peter Hayhoe … how do I even describe the ridiculous genius of his poem? He performed a poem that was pretty much his entire life in poetry form (all the way up to that very moment) and it was spellbinding. It was filled with geeky nostalgia, teenage doubts and plenty of jokes; a disarmingly honest and adorable performance.
  • Maddy Carty finished the night off with an ice-cool set of songs that we both perceptive and entertaining; a real treat for the ears.

Overall this was a warm embrace of an event. An inclusive welcome for the new, a celebration for the regulars, and a damn good party for all involved. While there were some poets I enjoyed more than others, the joy of Sage & Time is how inclusive and supportive it is of everyone and that tells in the ever-improving and enjoyable poetry its regulars perform. And this was such a fun night I’m already excited about the 3rd birthday!


Keats House Poets’ Forum 11/12/11

In Performance Poetry on April 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

– reviewed by James Webster

The Keats House Forum is a unique kind of poetry event. Keats House is the museum-cum-memorial to John Keats, where he lived for two years, wrote some of his most memorable poetry and met his fiancée Fanny Brawne (who was apparently something of a creative proto-punk). I know this because those of us who were there early were given a guided tour, saw all the Keats memorabilia and were given a potted history of his time in the house. It made for an appropriate start to a poetry event (even if it was odd to be at a show where there was no bar).

The format’s simple and effective; hosted by Simon Mole (one of the Keats House Poets) who made a point of asking what everyone wanted for Christmas (recorded bold in brackets), the open mic spots were interspersed with performances from the Keats House Poets. Then Kat Francois headlined and closed the show.

Keats House Poets

  • Simon (road bike with drop-down handles) started us off with a piece (inspired by Human Planet), about a guy who can hold his breath for a really long time. It was a breathy performance, filled with verdant language describing an underwater world. By piling on the language and increasing speed Simon builds up a real sense of pressure, which he breaks occasionally with a fun call and response.
  • Laila Sumpton (Mary Poppins powers): previously seen at the Beaconsfield Reading Series, she started with a piece on Ear Worms (medically described as a musical hallucination). It was cleverly put together: you could feel the song entwining itself into your brain as she describes it.
  • And ‘Viral Times’ managed to make the personification of the common cold seems super-cute.
  • Anthony ‘The Hurricane’ Hett (socks that don’t fall down) gave a calm, but captivating performance of ‘For John’, emotionally drawing on the awkwardness and heart-rending nature of visiting sick friends. The words tipped over each other as he struggled to speak as it finished with a powerful monologue to his dying friend.
  • Paul Sherreard and Stephanie ‘Sonority’ Turner performed some re-workings of Keats’s poems:
  • Sonority turned Keats’s ‘Solitude’ into the contemporary ‘I Go Solo’, an engaging piece on a late night walk that made its words sound out like footsteps on a quiet street.
  • And ‘Song’ is translated by Paul into ‘I Got a Dog’, which was an adorable piece on feeling abandoned by the death of a pet.

Open Mic

  • Janice Windle (gallery desperate to sell her paintings) read ‘Beginning a Painting’ which described frustration and procrastination with nice intricate language.
  • While ‘His Name’ was an utterly gorgeous and magical (in an age-old blood magic kind of way) poem about finding a bone good luck charm.
  • Wizard of Skill (radio) performed ‘My Radio’. His performance is always full of quirky energy, but his idiosyncratic delivery swallows a lot of his language, the poem lacked focus, and he repeats his chorus far too often. That said, he did have the audience chanting along to the chorus.
  • Kaori (date with a special someone) captured the audience completely with a lovely tale of nostalgia for Godzilla destroying people on TV, contrasted with a touching family story of an earthquake.
  • Deanna Rodgers (headshots and membership of spotlights) read a roaming, rough-and-tumble of a poem, filled with the energy of her youth, riding over London with friends with ‘jackets on inside-out because we are Fresh Princesses’ on the old Routemaster buses (she also runs Come Rhyme With Me with Dean Atta).
  • Ed Mayhew (best free thing you can find) gave a lively performance of a hugely enjoyable poem on a protracted rap battle with the Mayor of Lime Regis. Some entertainingly clunky rhyme, and a superbly fluid, eloquent spoken word monologue, made for an ace poem.
  • Jess (little person in my life) based a poem on her ‘wish list for life when [she] was young and stupid’. Her younger self’s aspirations were a joyous mess of the hedonistic, anarchic and bohemian. Best line: ‘being thrown out of this establishment will be the best thing I’ve done all day’.
  • Donall Dempsey (Janice Windle’s filtrum) gave us his super sweet ‘Love Potion’ dedicated to his partner’s filtrum.
  • And also a ‘Love Song for Emily’ (Dickinson that is) that was beautiful on Dickinson’s ‘perfect embroidery of knowing’ and ‘The Present Moment’ was terrifyingly cute account of his daughter giving him a present of stone, grass and twigs.


  • Kat Francois (a new front-left tyre)
  • She starts with a description of someone who ‘used to dance in her not so long ago days’, using repetition to create a rhythm of music, it becomes all the more upsetting when things change and the woman’s limbs ‘hang useless’, but ends inspiringly with the affirmation that ‘in her mind she travels to places that in reality are absolute impossibilities’.
  • Next, a piece that describes a woman’s body and her issues with it; from her ‘inviting mango-calves’ to her dress that turns into a ‘crimson whirlwind of wonder’ with a gust of wind. Again it’s a triumph of freedom over frustration as she’s ‘sick and tired of hating herself’ and steps out to dance.
  • Her ‘West Ken Blues’ was performed imaginatively, using the space and props perfectly, she weaves the images of ‘the days when innocence reigned’ in the air for us. Starting with larger than life characters, moving to tragedy and pain, she movingly evokes the atmosphere of this troubled and low-income neighbourhood. A superb socially conscious performance piece.
  • Her final ‘Poetry Addict’ is another great performance. An explanation of all the reasons she performs, where you can hear her gasping for the breath that poetry gives her, it’s both intimate and performative.

Conclusion: A really strong afternoon of spoken word. The standard of the open mic (with the possible exception of Wizard of Skill), the Keats House poets and feature Kat Francois was incredibly high. One of the most consistently quality afternoons of poetry I’ve attended, with a variety of styles and themes to entertain and inform, whatever your tastes. Keats would be proud (probably).