Introduced by John Sampson, her collaborator for the afternoon, Carol Ann Duffy is heralded as “the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person” to hold the position of poet laureate. Over the course of an hour, the audience are treated to a selection of Duffy’s best poetry, accompanied by Sampson’s soothing musical moments.
There are no bells and whistles to the show – everything comes down to the intrinsic talent of the two performers. They are both understated, humble and funny in the interspersed moments of conversation.
The poems that Duffy has chosen for the afternoon are particularly enhanced by the poet’s own voice. Her delivery is comedic when necessary, and adds emotion to some of her more personal poems. Starting with pieces from The World’s Wife, she then moves on to her collection of love poems, Rapture. Finally, she shares with the audience some of her poetry inspired by events that have affected her, including the now infamous ‘Mrs Schofield’.
Preceding certain poems with explanations of the conditions under which they were written and adding context to others, it is an honour to be able to hear the poet’s perspective on her writing. It is particularly interesting to have her poems from The World’s Wife contextualised and to hear why she picked certain characters from the wide array of male protagonists at her disposal.
The most enjoyable parts of the show come when Duffy’s words and Sampson’s music come together to complement the other. There is a real connection between the two. However, this leaves the times when the artists perform separately seeming disjointed. The music and the poetry work amazingly well together, but on their own the presence of another performer on stage seems odd. It is a shame that the two art forms do not come together more often throughout the hour.