Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson

In a typically idiosyncratic twist Carol-Ann Duffy is collaborating with her ‘favourite’ court musician John Sampson for a reading of work from across her gargantuan oeuvre.

She commands attention by not seeking it, in an understated performance where the wisdom of her words prevail.

Sampson introduces us to a range of beautifully crafted historical and modern instruments including a crumhorn that sounds like a cross between a harpsichord and a horn, with a hint of kazoo. Each has a delightful, unique sound but are sadly underused as Duffy mostly recites unaccompanied. This has the effect of a slightly disjointed evening with soothingly resonant musical interludes interspersing the poetry, but with little or no connection made between the two.

She is marvellous. A literary icon and poetry’s feminist poster girl. It’s a little bit like an audience with the Queen as Duffy has an impossibly regal air reading her poems in her signature ‘poetic’ drawl and dropping in the odd sardonic joke. Unlike some famous poets, her readings enhance the assonance of her verse, her tongue wrapping round phrases that she has constructed and knows exactly how she wants to them to be delivered.

She reads several poems that take famous myths and reimagines them with a female protagonist. She updates the myth of ancient Greek hero Tyresius who is punished by Hera by being turned into a woman for seven years. The poem teasingly exposes patriarchal ignorance of the daily complexities and challenges of being a woman.

The triumph of Duffy’s verse is its simplicity: often phrases seem almost too obvious to be moving – ‘I miss most his hands, his touch on my skin’ – but like music it is their lilting cadence which holds the emotion. She is a witty social commentator as well. At one point she describes how ‘my poem was arrested’ and taken out of the GCSE syllabus for allegedly inciting knife crime. She responds scathingly by writing a poem which demands that all Shakespeare’s poems with knives in are also removed.

Duffy has an indefinable quality of greatness about her. Her poems make everyday tales of love, life and loss aesthetic while never losing their accessibility. She commands attention by not seeking it, in an understated performance where the wisdom of her words prevail.

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

Udderbelly Festival

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel

★★★★★
The Vaults

Skin A Cat

★★★★★
The Vaults

Underground

★★★★
Orange Tree Theatre

The Rolling Stone

★★★★★
Charing Cross Theatre

Piaf

★★
London Theatre Workshop

Through The Mill

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Poet Laureate and her favourite court musician bring an hour of light and shade, laughter and reflection to the Assembly Rooms. Carol Ann will read from her acclaimed collections, including The World’s Wife, The Bees and other works. Lucid, honest and accessible, her writing explores both everyday experience and our inner worlds in deceptively simple, profoundly resonant poems. Alongside the words, John Sampson takes us on a virtuoso tour through musical highlights of the past 500 years, played on a fascinating collection of period and modern instruments.

Most Popular See More

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £22.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets