It’s not pornography but it’s still pretty good. Bang Said the Gun is a poetry show for people who don’t like poetry. It’s the absolute opposite to the sedentary academic appreciation of literature; Bang Said the Gun is full of energy and noise. Everyone is given a ‘rattler’ upon entry, which is a plastic milk bottle containing lots of popcorn kernels, so they can contribute their own decibels to the performance. The combined noise provides a real rush of adrenaline, transforming the Roundabout from a theatre into a miniature Colosseum.
The night is a variety of different acts: stand-up poetry, spoken work and confession. Dan Cockrill is the presenter for the evening. He does well at stoking up the audience’s enthusiasm by providing some comedy, including a section referred to as “T. S. Eliot or Missy Elliot”. In this game, if you’re chosen, you have the chance to win a pint by guessing correctly who said the following quotation. In this instance this was the given quotation: “He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you to get yourself some teeth.” Although I wasn’t chosen, I recognised this as ‘The Waste Land’. Right down to the exact part of the poem. You can probably tell I don’t get out much.
Rob Auton is the first performer to come to the stage. His poems are loosely about observations. One poem is about watching his nephew identify the colour of a Christmas bauble, another is remembering his teacher – an intractable Christian – refer to peppers as the “devil’s testicles”: Auton then produces some peppers and proceeds to rips them apart. Auton’s poetic subjects are wacky and weird, neatly expressed and delivered with charisma.
Laurie Bolger brings a fun youth element to the table. Her stand-up is about booze and clubbing, she also inserts lyrics from UK garage and house songs into this, like Craig David’s “Rewind”, which is received happily by the audience, including some of her friends from home who have come to Edinburgh to support her. Surprisingly, they’ve also come to go out clubbing.
It’s becoming apparent that Bang Said the Gun is less about technically perfect, self-indulgent poetry and more about confident, confessional pieces – rawer and truer. As Cockrill says: “it’s poetry not ponce.”
‘The Harry and Chris Show’ are up next. This spoken word duo introduce themselves with an appropriately named song: “Intro”. It’s a casual way to showcase their talent. Humour is effortlessly worked into Harry’s lyrics: “Limousine” is a fun song with a part manufactured especially for Bang Said the Gun: an interactive freestyle rap. Harry does well to incorporate all the words offered by the audience: “orangutan”, “rainbow”, “completeness” to name a few – even abstract concepts are welcome. Another song the duo performs is “I’m a flippin’ ten”, a sort of light-hearted look at vanity. This is perhaps my favourite act of the night – very accomplished and unique.
The mood shifts: Katie Bonna’s poetry, concerning the death of a close friend, is really quite striking. Through performance she deals with the grief. It’s her catharsis. The blend of the mundane and the serious, as well as the comic and the tragic, is done impeccably. In an unguarded moment she weeps over a dead goldfish. The natural delivery means her poetry is like experiencing her exact conscious processes in savage detail: it’s emotional, unexpected and tortured.
Bang Said the Gun is a real poetic cabaret. It’s fresh and innovative, but more than anything it’s meant to be some fun and noise that you can freely participate in. There’s a real sense of collective enjoyment here.