Sarah Mole, who recently created the set design for E52’s Pale Blue Dot as well as the productions’s poster, got up close to Women of Words when they scratched their new show The Second Rehearsal at Heads Up.
I did not know much about Women of Words – Vicky Foster, Lynda Harrison, Michelle Dee, Julie Corbett and Cassandra Parkin – but have heard their names seemingly everywhere over the last few months due to their appearances at the BBC Contains Strong Language festival, which heard them broadcast across the nation.
The evening took place at Kardomah 94. Surrounded with black drapes and with an intimate old Hull Truckesque vibe, the performers are so close you feel you could join the ladies on stage and, in fact, one lady did! I’ll mention that lovely twist later.
The theme of this performance – kicked off by Julie Corbett waiting for the arrival of the others – was the connection each of the women had to music and each story and performance was deeply personal to each writer.
What I really liked about the group on stage, and what really worked in this as a concept and collection of ideas, was the dynamic of the group; the friendship and support and the banter between the women, urging each other to get up and read their work, with the ethos ‘get on with it then’.
The group has the feeling of a band (which is explored – they sang, among others ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking, playing a tambourine and uke) colliding with being down at your mate’s house sharing, laughing and supporting each other.
I saw very few shakes of nervousness while reading; there were shakes, but that was when the poems and lines were so deeply personal and moving it threw the reader back to that place.
The musical stories and poetry and prose was varied; words of journeys of discovering their own voices alongside found poems and mash-ups of moving lyrics.
Michelle Dee, reflecting throughout on her own personal journey as a writer seeking – and finding – a voice, and whose love of music started with rock, brilliantly added to the mix with a comedic takedown of her own, early music criticism. Michelle, like her peers, has clearly started to sing her own song, and a powerful one at that.
Beautiful and sad stories of strength demonstrate that certain songs can save your life, with Vicky Foster recounting an escape with her ‘two small refugees’ in the back of the car, read over the Oasis song Stop Crying Your Heart Out (with its refrain of ‘hold on’) – the poetry weaving its way over Liam Gallagher’s vocals and painting a cinematic picture filled with space and emotion.
The wonderful revelation that hearts beat together while singing suggested that perhaps we become one throbbing ‘single heart’. And Cassandra Parkin’s poem Beautiful Boy was a sensitive parental perspective on a young man ostracised from the pack because they don’t ‘fit in’. I felt it applied to so many young men in many ways.
The warm and lovely memories of Lynda Harrison’s mother dancing, her ‘Manchester’s swinging like metronomes’ and stories of the perils of having to share a tape recorder as precious Dusty Springfield vocals were overdubbed with a bad impression of the Goon show by her mischievous brother, brought responses of recognition.
Then there were Julie Corbett’s recollections of Willy Nelson’s instructions for cleaning, the first records each of the women bought – Julie’s were Puff The Magic Dragon and Itchycoo Park – and their favourite lyrics.
As the show closed, audience member Sofia announced that she had been in Hull for two weeks and had ‘fallen in love’ with the city. She wanted to read a poem she had written and, as is the norm usually at Women of Words events, she was warmly welcomed on to the stage where she shared some passionate and positive Hull reflections. These included the observation of Hull’s monument of a family looking out to sea on their journey to new countries, in which she saw her own family. And this impromptu contribution finished the show beautifully.
Women Of Words is a monthly event, taking place on the first Wednesday of the month at 2pm-4pm at Kardomah 94, Hull, for female performers of spoken word, prose, song and drama featuring open mic slots and special guests each month. Male audience members are very welcome.