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Lichfield Festival review: Being Human @ Lichfield Garrick

This was a truly wizard wheeze, a programme celebrating the output of Bloodaxe, purveyors of quality poems to the gentry i.e discerning modern poetry readers everywhere. But there was more.

Instead of merely reading the poems out loud, with however much emphasis and expression, here a trio of young actors performed and presented them in a variety of refreshing ways, and in the process revealed a process of memorising familiar and unfamiliar verse that was no mean feat in itself. The watchword was “poetry – is a human voice.”

Experienced Coventry actor Barrett Robertson has an engaging presence and great diction, with a boldness and sensitivity that took us deep into the human heart. Ex-National Youth Theatre member Elinor Middleton has a wide range which enabled subtle interpretation of some of the less accessible verses. Benedict Hastings, newly graduated from Birmingham University, has an engaging confidence which bodes well for his future career.

So here there were poems to suit every occasion through the journey of life. From flirtation through copulation to fertilisation, gestation and birth, on through to death, nothing was missed out of its joys, pain, and humour too, all the things that go into being human.

After the interval, age crept onto the stage, sombre, but often uplifting; particularly memorable was Golden Mothers Driving West by Paul Durcan, about an Alzheimer’s suicide pact which was somehow strangely uplifting; it’s about being able to take control, I suppose, a nice antidote to the fear of death.

So – great words from poets familiar, and some less well known or new to this hearer, many in translation. Great lighting and sound too, and subtle use of props with some nice stage-craft. I’m not sure an interval in so short a programme was really justified, holding up the evening’s powerful dynamic as it did, and there were some audibility problems for those of us who’re getting on a bit and sitting at the side.

But these are mere quibbles, insignificant when set against the sheer cleverness of this feast of beautifully-crafted words.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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