Arguments and Nosebleeds is becoming a little nugget of tradition, a one-off poetry performance — now in its third year — that gives a platform to a host of Scottish poets, along with other guest performers. Sadly, this year the advertised Cynthia Carle was unable to attend due to illness, but last year’s BBC Edinburgh Fringe Poetry Slam Winner Cat Brogan gamely stepped into the slot and performed very well. Most notable was a poem she’d written just a few hours earlier, inspired by her being knocked off the BBC Radio 5 Live news agenda — she’s campaigning against new squatting laws — by the death of the first lunar astronaut Neil Armstrong. The poem was poignant, intelligent, emotive and, above all, fresh.
Unfortunately, the rest of the show couldn’t quite live up to this. Host Robin Cairns is a comradely soul and his work is witty, tightly-written and enjoyable enough to hear: his Johnny Cash remix (A Boy called Amadeus), his critique-lyrics to the Benny Hill TV theme, and his ‘nothing obscene’ poem which proves to be anything but. Yet his choice to open with a poem inspired by the Scottish capital’s former Conservative Councillor Moira Knox feels past its sell-by date on so many levels. Not least the fact that no one in the audience knew who she was.
Even organiser Jane Overton’s dry humour — offering “a few minutes of bile and disfunction” to help lighten the mood — at times felt all too rhythmically repetitive; a pattern followed by Chris Young with his forceful enunciation (his love poem to “My hairy lady” inspiring the most positive audience reaction).
Now that spoken word and poetry have their own section in the official Fringe brochure, it’s important that Scotland’s burgeoning scene maintains a foothold in the capital during August, and events like this are one way to do so. However, aside from promising rib-bursting hilarity which failed to materialise, is audience unfamiliarity really any excuse for a ‘best of‘ package?