Being read to by another person is one of life's great pleasures, doubly so when it is the author doing the reading. The work on offer here, themed around alcohol, is complicit, quirky and cunningly constructed.
Drunk with a Pen is a pretty good way to spend an hour; preferably with a beer in hand
Joseph J Clark is an endearing and earnest Poet who attempts to explore our relationship with the demon drink as a meandering journey through thirteen and a half poems. Many of them were good enough to make me smile and remember for some time afterwards. Taking inspiration from the elegantly soulful lyrics of the Southern Rock scene, Clark cites Hayes Carll, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle as his muses but modestly claims to have found all his poems at the bottom of a bottle.
Clark is an extremely watchable reader and although it takes a while for the stylus to hit the groove we are treated to some thoughtful and thought provoking pieces. The portentous truisms of Hanging by a Thread and Sometimes the Whisky Wins nearly prompted me to forego my next drink and are written with a simple, modern use of language. This is performance poetry at its most accessible and is a bit like being in the pub with a more interesting raconteur then you can usually rustle up. The more lightweight offering of Sin and Tonic sneaks in to the second half to provide a more upbeat tone but it's rhyming frothiness, reminiscent of P.G.Wodehouse, lacks the personal resonance of the rest of the narrative. Towards the end we return to form and Maybe this Beer and A Eulogy of Empty Words usher the dark in with a heartfelt and emotive delivery.
The music in the show is a welcome introduction to some of his references, setting the mood nicely and could play a greater supporting role in the future. Clark's performance in the intimate space of the Artista needs a little more polish but his few stumbles are more likeable than distracting.
Drunk with a Pen is a pretty good way to spend an hour; preferably with a beer in hand. It's a quietly enjoyable show, full of feeling, and I was glad to have stopped by.