Burning Books

Jess Green is a champion of misfits; she animates the videogame playing teenagers looking for a shot in with the cool tattooed kids, the frustrated but eager readers banned from the library, the movember loyalists, the junkie teachers looking for their next hit, she animates them all, unexclusively and impeccably. Green is an immensely powerful speaker, with clever rhymes that carry an audience through a myriad of tales in a variety of voices, an hour of spoken word poetry flies by under her artful lead in the neon cave that is The Lizard Lounge.

Green’s voice is urgent, important and immensely enjoyable; she deserves to be heard.

Grippingly inventive and at times immensely touching (‘Don’t think your flesh is where it stops’), interspersed with charming interludes from her accompanying musicians this show’s immense draw comes ultimately from the simplicity of Green’s words, the steady beat and emotionally honest expressiveness of her poetry which centres on highly topical and deeply evocative scenarios of everyday life. The unacknowledged, the silent sufferers, these are the people with whom Green abides.

The drive and passion behind this work is evident, and the strength of Green’s conviction makes her performance all the more enthralling to watch. In a piece that begins ‘Dear Mr. Gove...’ we see a fabulous anti-ode to the ex-secretary of education calling to attention the upsetting changes being made to curriculum. Another piece sees a tender examination of the fleeting and often fickle nature of teenage friendships vividly conjuring the cruelties of bullying that often sadly remain a pained part of the reality of teenage life. The smallest piercing, the right trainers, the right words, all of it matters in these worlds and Green doesn’t let you forget it for an instant. Green incites the never ending struggle of forming identity, whether through friends or even in the pursuit of teaching as a profession under the traumatised rule of Michael Gove.

At times the delivery can’t seem to help but slip into a slightly preachy persona and despite her brilliantly comedic timing at certain moments the speed of Green’s enthusiastic rendition means jokes fall flat simply because they are lost in transition. One poem even makes fun of a poet brought in to inspire teachers, and can’t help but feel awkwardly self-reflexive and over-egged.

It’s a clever and deeply moving piece in which the rules of education and the rigid and often unfair systems that function within society are examined acutely through convincing characters (the librarian taking classics deemed ‘inappropriate’ to the dump is an ingenious if worryingly real creation). Green’s voice is urgent, important and immensely enjoyable; she deserves to be heard.

Reviews by Thea Hawlin

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The Blurb

An hour long music and spoken word show set in an inner city secondary school suffering the cuts and blows of the coalition government. Supported by two musicians, Jess Green tells the stories of the librarian secretly taking books to the tip, the newly qualified graduate furiously supporting Movember and the tired out 60-something teacher fighting for her pension on a picket line, to the background of blues, folk and the odd European waltz.