Say Owt is a night full of spoken word poetry, where people can showcase their poetic talents on whatever topic they choose and are given ratings out of ten to find a winner. On this night, there was a range of many moving poetic performances, about death, relationship breakdown, Donald Trump and war, to name a few. The event was held at the Basement, in City Screen Picturehouse, an edgy and lively place to host a slam, with low ceilings and a small audience; host Henry Raby joked that we’d be too rowdy for the misser-outters in the cinema above, as we were encouraged to shout “FREEESTOOONE” regularly, the surname of Stu Freestone, Henry’s hosting counterpart.
The night was set up in rounds, the first with eight contestants, and the second narrowed down to four. Each had three minutes to say their piece and five judges were chosen randomly from the audience by the hosts, then switched to a fresh five in the second round. My not-so-artsy friend became victim to the judging panel in the second round, but took a real liking to it, giving enthusiastic scores and promising to return to a similar event.
Round one displayed strong talent – the only comic piece was an allegory of Donald Trump. This was clever and seemed even like something easily told to a child, to tell the horrors of modern politics, set up in a comical and animated style acutely similar to Dr. Seuss. The rest of the seven performances were quite heavy, relatable and allowed performers the vulnerability that can be expressed through a creative outlet such as poetry, with many of the poems based on real experience. The first performance was a blind man telling us how to treat the visually impaired, teaching patience and communicating that, for example, there is more than one way to pass through a door. There was a running theme in round one mainly of the effects of grievance, namely death and relationships ending.
In an interlude between round one and round two, guest performer Malaika Kegode performed her own gorgeously sensitive poetry. Malaika had an aura of complete realness about her, especially in opening up through her poetry about a previously abusive ex, who had passed only a few months ago. She engaged the audience with ease and joked at how funny it would be if we were taken out of the context of the slam and were instead a friend in her bedroom, still with her reciting poem after poem at us without being able to get a word in.
There were a couple of breaks throughout the evening that helped keep the audience and performers feeling fresh and energised. As the second round commenced, we were left with an articulate rhyming poem, a beat boxing poem, a poem about lasagne, and the pending winner’s poem that was dedicated to her mother. This was a poem about sexual assault that was intense and Prerana Kumar was deserving of the overall highest scores, though all the second round performers were talented.
The night was entertaining in all its variety; the atmosphere exciting and the hosts, performers and audience all gave the night its energy in the pure form that spoken word poetry offers.