I was the first to ascend the steps of the Three and Ten, greeted by the sight of a flame-haired woman clad in a sky blue, draped gown - slightly reminiscent of a druid priestess contemplating sacrificing her grave-faced husband who sat at the keyboard next to her. As she knocked back a glass of ‘wine’ (quite clearly just water) and flung her mane over her face, clawing at it exasperatedly like the cool girls in music videos, I grew disappointed at the transparency of the aesthetic construction. This ‘seventies’, bohemian, rock chick performance poet image seemed too try-hard, too forced. However, when the poetry started and Ruth E Dixon commenced her performance, I realised that she was actually subverting the intricately contrived pretentions that many new spoken word artists adopt.
Dixon is reminiscent of a female Tim Minchin, with most of her poems containing preposterously silly opening lines delivered with a deadpan solemnity
Admittedly, the performance started slow, with the opening poem ill-fitting and inexplicable within the rest of the canon. However, as the performance continued, the poems became naughtier and Ruth E Dixon embodied a wacky, glamorous persona that remained a representative of reality and real living – with poetry exploring the ‘joys’ of motherhood and the incessancy of unnecessary kitchen appliances. Dixon is reminiscent of a female Tim Minchin, with most of her poems containing preposterously silly opening lines delivered with a deadpan solemnity, such as my personal favourite, ‘All the old people are dying’. She was enthralling to watch as she floated about the stage, her farcical facial expressions adding an extra element to the words she related – Dixon is the proud owner of a very flexible face.
Another highlight was the omnipresence of Dixon’s husband, Peter, sitting mutely on the keyboard all dressed in black as his wacky wife throws insult after insult his way. He remained speechless for the majority of the performance, however broke his silence at the end of the poem entitled ‘Weather Girl’ – containing the line ‘a weather girl’s got to have tits.’ At the close of this poem, he leant towards the microphone and, seemingly possessed by breast-loving word vomit, hissed a babble of words, the most recognisable being ‘titties’ and ‘motorboat’. This abrupt outburst from the taciturn, hen-pecked pianist took the entire audience by surprise and had them roaring with laughter.
This strangely exuberant one-woman (plus husband) cabaret act was evocative of Spinal Tap-style silliness, embracing ridiculousness with endearing solemnity. The poetry itself wasn’t particularly clever or beautiful – my favourite verse was Dixon’s attempt to rhyme ‘garden’ with ‘hard-on’ in the ever-relevant ditty ‘Camping and Vaginas’ – however, it was incredibly entertaining and refused to budge from the unromantic reality of Dixon’s homeland (somewhere between Scunthorpe and Grimsby). The Shallow Depths is a rollercoaster ride of fun, colloquial spoken word set to a jaunty original score, some truly eardrum shattering singing, a thoroughly bizarre costume change and husband/wife poison-spitting, a must-see show for all who wish to see the genre of spoken word subverted into an accessible, silly and aesthetically pleasing new medium.