Due to being under the weather with flu this past week I've been remiss in letting you know that my husband, Howard Gayton, and his theatre partner, Peter Oswald. have a performance at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter this week. If you're anywhere near Exeter, please come! The show is tomorrow (Monday) night, at 7:30, and it would be lovely to see some of you from the Mythic Arts community there.
For Mythic Arts fans, Egil is right up our alley for it's based on an old Icelandic saga of a Viking warrior and poet. Written & performed by Peter, with music & direction by Howard, the show is unlike anything you'll ever have seen before -- for it seems to me that they are basically inventing a new genre in this and other works that they have on the boil. Peter calls it "poetry performance." I'll let him explain:
"At the moment," he says, "live poetry falls into a few recognised categories. There is ‘page poetry,’ which is read by a poet from a book to an audience. This is contrasted with ‘stage poetry,’ also known as ‘performance poetry,’ which is learned by heart and performed. Performance poetry usually has a relation to rap or hip hop -- fast, rhyming, political, personal and urban. Then there is storytelling, which sometimes takes the form of poetry, rhyming or unrhyming, sometimes with musical accompaniment. All these come into the category of ‘spoken word,’ except perhaps the page poetry.
"There are many other modes, no doubt," Peter continues, "but these are a few I know about. Generally speaking, in order to be recognised as a serious poet, you have to be a 'page poet’ and do deadpan expressionless readings from a book. (There are exceptions, like my wife, Alice.) Doing a performance last year with a page poet, there was a moment when I was describing what I was going to do and he looked at me in genuine dismay and said, ‘You’re not an actor are you?’ Similarly, recently in Plymouth, as part of the Literature Festival, I did a performance of a few of my sonnets, followed by a performance -- with actions, different voices, even a small dance -- of my poem Helen. Afterwards, the organiser, delighted but genuinely baffled, asked me, ‘So...do you have a background in theatre???’
"A combination that’s not readily understood is a poet who is an actor performing stories that are poems. This is what I call 'poetry performance.' Prior to this, I’ve pursued it on my own -- but now, working with Howard, the category is stepping over the line between poetry and theatre. This is the real difference between poetry performance and performance poetry. Performance poetry has no real crossover with theatre; it’s more related to standup. But poetry performance, as Howard and I practice it, has deep roots in theatre.
"We think of Homer’s works as the highest poetry, and yet they are stories designed to be performed with music. If you do that nowadays you are a storyteller, not a poet. This confusion is caused by the dominance of one kind of book poetry. We are challenging this with Egil."