One-Liners: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews

I’ve written more detailed reviews for The Norwich Radical on shows by the Kitten Killers, Luke Stephens, Kate Smurthwaite, Pole and Hannah Chutzpah. Here I’ve included some smaller reviews to give you a flavour of some of my other many highlights.

Megan Ford: Feminasty

Satirical, character sketches and comedic speeches on gender, Ford switches between characters to connect comedy to more serious issues. We get a cool, informative zine on the way out, and a badge.

Shazia Mirza: A Word In Progress

There were moments I wasn’t sure about: the mention of ‘political correctness’, jokes about fat people, and Jewish people, and the upset at the mention of the girls who left Bethnal Green Academy. I work at the school down the road, and it’s something that directly impacts on the students I teach, but perhaps the point was to create discomfort. The theory that they went “for dick” seemed sadly poignant once the laughter died down and we were told that “epilator, knickers and body lotion” were on the top of their packing list. This is a slightly longer review, because I’m interested to see where the show will go, because, although funny, the ending – a commentary on Islam and so-called “ISIS” was momentous and powerful.

Bridget Christie: A Book For Her

There were at least three acts who mentioned the tax on sanitary products, but Christie suggested the ingenious idea of sending bloody knickers with “END VAT’ on them to George Osborne. In this show, she gave an ironic definition of what being a Feminist means and turned to politics in the UK and USA, with an intersectional focus on race issues.

Katherine Ferns: Conscious Incompetent

I disagreed with points made about “manspreading”, which is simply indicative of patriarchy, and as much a part of it as anything else, I didn’t like jibes at Beyoncé, and I didn’t like the use of the word “retarded”. However, she also made the obligatory tampon tax joke, and her ability to touch on taboo subjects such as incest, rape and pedophilia was both clever and somehow funny (and not in an offensive way). She spoke frankly of what difficulties in her life, from depression to drugs, and weighed up whether decisions she’d made were brave or stupid. Well, I’d say the brave outweighs the stupid.

Jack Rooke: Good Grief

He probably won’t want his youth commenting on, but I left Rooke’s show in awe of what he is doing. Not only has he created this wonderful show, which has the perfect balance of comedy and more sombre moments, but he is symbolic of how the personal is political. What goes on with the government directly impacts on our lives, and through The Good Grief Project, he is challenging current changes to the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

Harry Baker: The Sunshine Kid

You couldn’t help but smile throughout this show, as Baker took us through his life prior to university to now through his poetry, which can be found in the book of the same title by Burning Eye Books.

David Lee Morgan: Building God

An intense show about revolution and communism, Morgan’s voice kept audiences captivated through his ways with words and the beat of the music he played as a backdrop.

Stephanie Laing: Nincompoop

A show about shame that started with not letting an old lady sit down, and inevitably went on to talk about drunken behaviour, bad dreams and sexual antics. With songs and a flute, Chesney Hawks, and a serious note about shame and self-harm, what’s not to love?

Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I gave this show a standing ovation. I’ve never been made to cry from watching dancing before this. I bought the play text, but I wish I could relive the experience as I read. Bryony Kimmings and her real-life partner Tim Grayburn use comedy, dance, and spoken word to speak about mental health more honestly than I’ve ever seen before. It was incredibly touching and I wanted to cry a lot more than I actually did.

Sophia Walker: Can’t Care, Won’t Care

An insight into the care industry through a legal battle between the state and the carer. This shows as in with such jobs, there is minimal pay and agency for those who truly care about the individuals they work for, the service users. It was honest and passionate, and so heartbreaking.

The Kagools

No words and a whole lot of audience participation. I was thankful to do no more than eat a Hula Hoop. The best part was their use of pre-recorded material on the screen, and that whilst it felt like each part was a random act, it tied neatly together by the end.

Elf Lyons: Being Barbarella

I loved the Feminist angle of wanting to be this confident person, and wanting to be empowered sexually and otherwise. Lyon’s mis-matching accents was especially funny, as well as her use of costume.

Ben Norris: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Family

Ben Norris explores his relationship with his father through a hitchhike through all the places his dad had lived, proving an interesting story that explored masculinity as a whole and was sure to connect with many men in the audience.

Aisling Bea: Plan Bea

I loved this and was laughing constantly. She had good accents and I liked the reclaiming of ‘girl’ as a word of complexities, and there were slight political points, but worked in a subtle way. Again, this was about confidence and owning your own “shame” (her being in this heavy metal pirate video)

Mark Watson: Flaws

A show about flaws, obviously, and lacking self-esteem, mental health issues and turning to alcohol. Watson is such a warm character that you can’t help but warm to him (unless you were one of the three women who left after fifteen minutes).

Paula Varjack: How I Became Myself (By Becoming Someone Else)

A really interesting piece, as well as in terms of subject matter – the idea of changing your identity – but also in terms of how this was done visually – mixing front performance, through the camera and on screen. 

So It Goes

Another show with no words spoken aloud, but written on white boards, using props and dance to illustrate the story of Hannah’s dad, dealing with his death, and her friend David helping her to tell this story. There was laughter, and many, many tears.

Sara Hirsch: How Was It For You?

‘I can’t rhyme you,’ Hirsch proclaims, asserting why she can’t write a poem for her then-boyfriend, in the middle of what is almost a long love poem to the ex in question. But it was also a love poem to herself, and for everyone out there searching for love and the meaning of life.

Jemima Foxtrot: Melody

Beautifully intricate language, so poetic and mixed in, as the title would suggest, with a’cappella song. Foxtrot plays with humour and the unexpected in this wonderfully crafted piece.

Kirsten MacGregor: Hello Cruel World

I couldn’t believe this comedian was just 18 years old. It wasn’t only her grumpy persona that made her seem mature, but her confidence and comic timing.

Michael Burdett: Strange Face – Adventures with a Lost Nick Drake Recording

Really interesting true story of… well, it does what it says on the tin. There’s a book with lots of people, including well-known people, photographed whilst listening to the a rare recording of ‘Cello Song’ with their stories.

Mark Stephenson: Amsterdam

A hilarious story about an absent father, a beautiful marriage and selective mutism. Or it is? Very much recommend.

Izzy Tennyson: Brute

I find it difficult to create characters that exist beyond binaries of good and bad, yet Izzy Tennyson managed to do this in the creation of ‘Brute’. In the classic conversational style of Tennyson, she embodies a teenage girl to tell a story that is familiar in the sense of going to a single-sex state school, but looking into why girls can be bullies, exploring the complexities of a psyche so often dismissed.

Dan Simpson: Nerdsmith

Reading poems from his Burning Eye Book, Applied Mathematics, Simpson attempts and admittedly fails to get to the heart of an emotional provocation. But at the end, it’s okay, as the audience enjoy his playing with language, from puns to extended metaphors. I bought his book in hope of some poetic inspiration!

Tim Renkow: Kim Jong-Un, Mohammed, Jesus and Other Power-Hungry Maniacs

Renkow was knowingly provocative in his comedy from the onset, warning the audience that his record number of walk-outs is nine people. However, I was most offended by the implication that, in telling an anecdote to illustrate negative attitudes to disability, his erection was due to the woman’s “fear”. There were certainly other moments where I questioned where he was going, but you didn’t have to wait for long to see that he was mocking injustices he sees in society.

So, it was pretty much all amazing…

There were some I enjoyed more than others, but the only show I was completely disappointed by was Tony Law. I’d seen him before, but a majority of this improvised show I didn’t find funny, and on top of that I was worried about him, especially when he started to drink a pint after telling the audience he’s quit drinking. I hope he’s okay…

Circus Fest


My poem ‘Monkey Bars’ is currently being displayed at the Roundhouse, along with poetry from some of the other members of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. They will be displayed throughout April as part of Circus Fest. I took these pictures whilst going to see ‘She Would Walk the SKy’, which finishes tomorrow. I was amazed by all the tricks they could do – my favourite was probably the ones where performers let themselves fall after entangling themselves in rope, but there were so many amazing parts, it’s hard to say. There was so much skill and strength in each act.

My piece was inspired by the festival, as well as my own experience pole dancing at university, where I won 1st place in a double routine (see above video). To me, the few skills I learnt during my time at pole dancing lessons was similar to circus skills. The poem was meant to be extended to any circus act, but I was thinking of a move in pole dancing where you push against the floor and hook your leg around into an inversion. I remembered how thrilling it felt to let go of the fear of going up-side-down, because that’s what it felt like – letting go of any fear or inhibitions. A lot of people talk about pole dancing being empowering and people tend to think it’s connected to sexuality, but for me it wasn’t to do with sexuality at all. I wanted to capture what pole dancing meant to me, in a way that also connected with different circus acts.


I have recently been to Portugal on a writing residency called ‘First Impressions’ where I got a heavily discounted rate to stay at the apartments to write. In turn, I wrote a short story based on the name of the residency, which I still need to edit. I met up with a fellow UEA student, Silvia Rose, who was also staying there, and I was so thankful to have her there – not only because I was nervous to be in a non-English speaking country alone, but we had some fun times together too. We had a day at the beach and were able to take frequent ferries trips to Lisbon too.


Find out more about my time at the Poetry Potting Shed with Michael Rosen and Niall O’Sullivan, with my blog posts – this is day one. Look out for my upcoming performances on my events page. The first is on Friday 25th April and it is a project working with Anchor House and You Press, where artists have been paired together with homeless residents from the centre in Canning Town, and we have created pieces about each person’s story. Mine is around 8-9 minutes long, and the night features lots of great performers, so I’m really excited to see everyone else. The next event also connects with social change, as Spoken Word London are working together with ‘Survival Guides’, putting on the opening night on Thursday 1st May. There are some great poets that will be down for that, plus there’s an open mic’ section. Fellow Roundhouse Poet, Chris Lawrence is also performing that night, and some of the other members of the group are taking part in NaPoWriMo this month. I’m cheating with pseudo-haikus and pictures, but I recommend the other poets’ work. Lastly, I also had a poem published alongside Matthew Dickerson’s illustration here, in the ‘Blackout’ anthology from Keats House Poets.

You Press Poster

First Place!

Okay, this is not poetry related, but I’m very happy! Me and my friend Charlotte won first place at the Pole for U aNd I Inter-University Pole Fitness Competition for doubles! There was only one other pair but they were AMAZING and we never expected to win!  They were a boy and girl and did amazing tricks and even were on the pole at the same time; it was beautiful.  It still is sinking in that we won, and I’m loving my trophy!  We each get a free pole too and I can’t wait!  Two of my housemates also do pole dancing and so we will hopefully find a way of putting it up in the house and then we can spin on it whilst cooking pasta and such things.  I made a couple of mistakes in the routine so wasn’t happy with how it went but I don’t mind now we won, yay!!

Also, I have changed my mind.  It did feel empowering.  I have only done dancing competitions in groups before so it was a great boost in confidence to be able to do this.  I was shaking and really nervous beforehand and was so proud of myself afterwards.  So, yes, it felt empowering.  I went to celebrate that night but sadly drank too much, got upset about a boy and cried.  Those are the things that need changing, and pole dancing makes me feel good and I see it as opposite those things like alcohol abuse, and allowing sadomasochistic relations with men, therefore it must be empowering.

I challenge anyone to try doing an up-side-down pike and not feel on top of the world.


Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

I can’t enjoy Peep Show in the same way anymore, since reading this article:

While I don’t agree with the spokesperson quoted in the article that pole dancing is ‘empowering,’ I don’t agree with David Mitchell either.  I’ve recently joined both the UEA Feminist Reading Group and the Pole Dancing Club.  So, I thought I’d write a post questioning whether a woman can be both a feminist and a pole-dancer; I argue that we can!

I’ve quoted Freud in the title in order to highlight the idea that one doesn’t always have to over-analyse something.  Why would someone who claims to be a feminist, knowing its connotations of strip bars and objectification, take up pole dancing?  Well, because it’s fun!  However, it is a sad fact of society still that we can’t simply enjoy such an activity and have to question the implications and how such behaviour reflects on us as women.

It’s like a combination of gymnastics and dancing, and you do feel a great sense of accomplishment when you learn a move and after a bit of practice you finally get the hang of it.  In just a few months my friends and I have moved up to the Intermediate class, and I’m even planning to take part in a competition in the Beginner s category.  I enjoy trying new things (I’ve also taken up boxing at the same time) and I am always trying to find ways to improve my confidence.  I don’t feel very sexy when doing it, but the better you can fake it, the better you look doing the moves, and the better you feel.  If executed in the right way (and personally, without those awful ‘stripper shoes’) it can look beautiful and elegant.

Just look at videos such as these:

When I’ve told people about my new hobby, some (men) have made suggestive comments and asked if we do it in our underwear.  The reason why people may do it in underwear or costumes that resemble underwear is because you need as much flesh-to-pole contact as possible.  But when we practice we just wear shorts and a vest top or t-shirt… nothing more sexy than what you would wear to the gym.

It would be ignorant to not expect attitudes such as Mitchell’s, but we do not have to accept these kinds of judgments.  As someone who has dance since the age of five, it adds another element to what I already know, and shows that life’s experiences are never-ending.  I do these classes because they are fun, but I won’t lie and say I don’t enjoy the sexual aspect of the dance form.  I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable doing a routine to a bunch of leering men, as that is something I would find degrading, but if I happened to own a pole and be in a committed relationship, who wouldn’t want to show off some moves in the bedroom to spice things up a bit?  You could even try to teach your man a thing or two!  Though painful moves such as learning to ‘sit’ on the pole could be more painful for the opposite gender!  It’s not just for girls though.  I once went to a club in Norwich which has poles, and a massive mixed gender group took over the poles and one guy even got told off by security for hanging up-side-down. 

Yes, the world we live in is still dripping with sexism, but for every guy that just thinks ‘phwoar’ at the prospect of a girl pole dancing, I would hope there are still some that appreciate the skill involved in the same way that I might think a swimmer is hot, but marvel as he does the butterfly.  If pole dancing is still viewed in this one very black and white way, then it just serves to give men the excuse that they are incapable of thinking beyond what goes on in their trousers and presents them as animalistic, which comes right out of the school of thought that says a rape victim is ‘asking for it’ by wearing a skirt.  I’d hope for a bit more from men.

I find it offensive that Mitchell would question my role as a woman and a feminist simply because I enjoy spinning around a pole from time to time.  The article just latches onto the word ‘empowerment’ and goes off on one in an attempt to get the reader to agree with him because if you don’t then you are a poor excuse for a women, most defiantly not a feminist and should be ashamed of yourself.  Well, fuck you Dave!

No, I don’t find pole dancing empowering, but I enjoy it.  I may even go as far in proving my point as to adding it to my CV (though I may refer to it as vertical dancing, because I am aware of the misconceptions made clear by Mitchell).  I do many other things that I find empowering, but, sometimes, in the words of Cyndi Lauper, girls just want to have fun.