Review: Flint & Pitch Revue #4

24th March, Bongo Club, Edinburgh.

Flint & Pitch Revue nights continue where the Rally & Broad cabaret shows left off, in the same venue with a similar format, with a similar crowd (roughly fifty/fifty Edinburgh artists and appreciators). Some people come for the spoken word, theatre or music, some come for the raffle. This review is focusing on the poetry, although it should be noted that the raffle remains a sizeable lure.

Ryan Van Winkle is the first poet on stage, reading new material focusing on loss, childhood and ageing. Being born in Connecticut, there is also the issue of spatial distance, and Van Winkle’s poems feature recurring images of trains, travel, recklessness and death. Of the four main poetry cadences (Slow, Slam (Crescendo), Slam (non-Crescendo) and That High Pitched Urgent One), Van Winkle is one of two performers to deliver his words slowly, pressing middle syllables slightly harder to make his delivery both urgent and languid. Also, his patter is excellent. I recognised parts of it from other gigs, but mention this not as a criticism – rather as a note that patter is a necessary skill for performers to develop. Repeating what works between gigs is a sensible way to go.

Sophia Walker performs one segment from her new show In Fidelity, road testing the material for the first time. Walker is an experienced enough performer to turn forgetting her script into the biggest laugh of the night, and maintains Slam (non-Crescendo) cadence throughout. Her word choice is straightforward and immediate. Due to it being a test of new material, the dynamism isn’t quite there, but in confessing her relationships and infidelities she is able to bring in commentary on monogamous couples, particularly incisive on the subject of need and respect. The potentially intense material is approachable in this form, the delivery laidback rather than confrontational. It’s not there yet, but that’s the point. Anyone looking at long form spoken word needs to work through this phase, and it’s always interesting to see how early versions develop.

The final spoken word act, Ellen Renton, is on in the final poetry slot of the evening, in the New Voices Slot. Renton’s use of the slow cadence is punctuated by tiny stillnesses and slight smiles that enhance her optimistic, genuine musings on growing up. It’s not showy, but it’s tremendously effective. Her subject matter is an interesting contrast to the older poets, because this is positive about youth and moving on. While she deploys alliteration too often, her poems still strike a chord and as such her set produced the biggest cheers of the night.

*Correction: The original post had stated that Ellen Renton was in the headline slot of the evening. This has now been corrected to reflect the New Voices slot.

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