Sharply suited, Luke Wright, Chris Hicks and Ross Sutherland, three members of the Aisle 16 poetry collective, bring a bit of the boardroom to cosy Islington pub theatre the Old Red Lion. Taking turns to deliver their work, their show takes the form of a series of Powerpoint presentations, accompanied by a spot-on series of thematically appropriate slides, liberally sprinkled with flow pyramids, graphs and slogans. Neatly skewering blue-sky-thinking-outside-the-box style corporate jargon, they riff on everything from reality TV to mobile phone companies to coffee-shop culture.
The trio toss out diverting image after diverting image: dead dogs as fashion items, five leaf clovers and three-year-old children as the achievers of tomorrow, as little “mini-winners.” This wouldn’t work if the threesome weren’t as strong performers as they are writers – fortunately this is the case. Charismatic, with an impeccable grasp of meter, they make their material work on the stage, they ensure that the show engages on a theatrical level. This is a project that has been honed and refined over time and it shows.
The use of the powerpoint projector is a masterstroke. Incredibly well selected, the slides underscore everything that is being said; it’s the symbiosis of the words and the images, more than anything, that makes this show memorable. OK, some of their chosen targets are rather too obvious, a prime example being Luke Wright’s 21st century superhero, the Daily Mail reading, Woking dwelling Slightly Awkward Man. Some things are just beyond satire, too easy to target, even if it is pretty amusing to watch them take a few blows.
The corporate device, though very well done, occasionally feels like a mere linking gimmick for the individual pieces, sometimes a stronger central thread would be welcome. But this is a small complaint given the quality of the material. Having recently seen a production of A Life In The Theatre where David Mamet’s prickly duologue was allowed to drift limply into the rafters, it’s good to see a performance where not a word is wasted.
The show runs at just over an hour, which is about right for this sort of production, it’s doubtful they could have kept it at this level for any longer. Powerpoint is a very good idea, very well executed; at its best this show comes across as a mixture of Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahnuick and Naomi Klein, plus any number of poets I’m not knowledgeable enough to reference. This is inspired, inspiring stuff that makes you question any ideas you may have about the capabilities of performance poetry. Shelve your preconceptions and pay the boys of Aisle 16 a visit.