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Sunday 1 April 2012

Take a Chill Pill: London's BEST Poetry Night

(Colour co-ordinating with the flier is optional)
Action. Drama. Romance. Comedy: The key ingredients I seek when I'm reviewing a Bollywood Blockbuster. Little did I know I could get the same filmi fix from a poetry night. Chill Pill is the best showcase of poetry and spoken word in London...(if not the UK?) I know, I know...there are infinite poetry nights nationwide, all with captivating hosts, brilliant headliners and rising stars of the future on the Open Mic...but add in a passionate and intelligent group of curators, a full masala of themes, a magic rug and a friendly intimate crowd, and you get 'Best' with a capital B.
Simon Says...
The monthly night switches between The Arcola, Soho and Albany theatres on the last Thursday of the month. It's the kind of night that will break every single preconception you ever had about poetry. Take me. Apart from my obsession with Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg when I was at junior school, I hated poetry (or at least didn't understand it.) Throughout my teens and my 20s I didn't read a single poem. My 30s have so far been an education in the art of rhyme. I've heard it all; from cringeworthingly bad performance poetry to some of the finest words of wisdom ever announced by mankind...I'm awarding this latter title to the genius that is Simon Mole. His observations, anecdotes and stories are filled with wit, intelligence and universal appeal.
Each month one of the Chill Pill crew write a 'Headline Poem' summarising the days events. This month (March 29th) Simon treated us to a sharp and succinct analogy of the petrol drought and pastygate. I wish he could round up the news for me everyday. 
No Shame about Ray here...
The delightful Raymond Antrobus is one of ChillPill's hugely talented founders. He's recently returned from a trip to South Africa and his anecdotal accounts which include the towns he visited to being back at home and checking in on his gran, have a warmth and sensitivity that engages you completely. He was accompanied by music which made his delivery even more mesmerising.
Dee's the one that I want!
If I ever got stuck somewhere, like in a lift or a tube carriage or maybe even down a hole, then Deanna Roger would be my first choice of companion. She radiates extreme optimism, even when she's zoned out into deep tales of love or politics. On stage she gives physically and vocally. It's hard to master both without putting your audience off, but Deanna manages it effortlessly.
Gee-Wizz-ard of music
Mr Gee the fourth member of the CP clan has a gift for sourcing the perfect soundtrack. The younger me was afraid (very afraid) of poetry nights because I assumed they consisted of listening and clapping and awkward silences in between. Mr Gee on the other hand provides theme tunes and intros that will get you groovin' in your seat : ) This month he also revealed the answer to The Classic Corner, where a poem is projected on the wall during the interval, and the audience have to guess when it was written. (I wasn't even close!)
No ordinary rug
And here lies the magic rug...it's essential to every Chill Pill night and is the main reason the event is so successful. (It's nice to see Craft playing a role here...a quality bit of weaving if I do say so!)
In the Limelight (Rachel's tights were cool too!)
I was dreading writing about the two headline acts: Storyteller Rachel Reid Rose performing with the Roundhouse Experimental Choir and Happy Rapper Mystro, because I was worried I'd be listing ridiculous words like Wow, Amazing, Outstanding...which clearly mean nothing unless you were there. The trouble is they really were sooooooooooooooooooooo good that I'm forced to use over 20 'o's in the hope that if you've yet to check them out, you will do so immediately. 
I have never seen anything like the Roundhouse Choir - they refer to themselves as Avant- Garde but I don't even think that captures their vision and brilliance well enough. As Rachel took us through a 25 minute journey called London Stone, the choir added vocals, sound effects, played characters and created atmosphere. To say the entire room was transfixed was an understatement. If I had higher powers, I would interfere with all the TV's in the UK, interrupt the transmission of The Voice and Britain's Got Talent and show the nation what Talent and Skill is actually all about...
Music. Mystro.
...and after Rachel, next to be transmitted would be Mystro the Happy Rapper. I don't even think he actually is known as the Happy Rapper but I fell in love with his charm, charisma (he came on stage to the James Bond theme) and huge giant smile. What a man and so, so Happy! Both his performances (and farewell song) were delivered with and consisted of utter perfection. It makes you feel there is such injustice when he does not have his own TV show: I'd watch him over any current comedian any day. Watch his UK Rap Up 2011 and then imagine seeing him live...Amazing!
Reminiscing Richard
Four folk took to the floor for the Open Mic segment starting with the wonderful Richard Purnell. His touching and powerful poem entitled The Iron Lady, a portrait of his late grandmother was delivered with eloquence and soul. (A quick plug for Richard, he hosts an Open Mic music and spoken word night at the Hackney Attic - check it out too!)
Nat's Chat
Natalie Wormsley's detailed account of sexual frustration that she warned us would be 'rude' was apparently her first ever poem. With those two facts in mind, it could have gone horribly wrong and yet she had us stunned from beginning to end with her honest, humorous tale of trying, and failing miserably to satisfy her desires. If Natalie represents the emerging voices of UK poetry (hopefully she's planning to pen more), then I don't think they'll be any more under 30s who will hate poetry ever again. 
Chill in the air
I'm the kind of Londoner that makes sure I get every pennies worth from my travelcard so I  get around to as many different types of Londium nights as possible - from 'craft ins' to clown shows, Japanese rock to contemporary theatre- combining all these recent experiences I can honestly say, none of them have topped my night at Chill Pill. I'm not just gushing like some crazy fan..there really is something about the energy from the moment you step into the room, to saying goodbye at the end of the evening that lifts your spirits no matter what kind of day you've had - it's an antidote to every day stress - they certainly got it spot on when they chose the name. (Nice one Deanna!)

Intrigued? Check out their next show. www.chill-pill.co.uk

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