Reviewer: Katherine Kirwin
Pen:Chant is a neo-variety night, an alt-cabaret, an indefinable shambolic mix of artforms in one evening. Pen:Chant occurs throughout the year in fringe venues across Manchester as a platform for known and unknown artists in various artforms; spoken word, poetry, live music, comedy and anything else that has slipped between the cracks. In a special PUSH 2017 edition, they created a local line-up compered by the founder of Pen:Chant, Ben Mellor.
Mellor’s charming yet scattered approach to compering was a perfect introduction to the style of the evening – a ramble across artforms with moments of focus and perfection, among moments of raw performance, and works-in-progress. The open mic session which opened the evening featured a handful of local performers who in 5minute slots used poetry and prose to communicate about mental health, search for identity, being stuck in a deathly job and being sick. These were raw performances, not polished or perfected, and they retained a charm and emotion because of this. There is no guarantee of quality at an open-mic night but this was an entertaining and thought-provoking start to the evening.
The headline acts of the night were comedian Stephen Bailey, poet Louise Fazackerley and hip-hop trio Foreign Interlood. The polish and experience of Stephen Bailey jarred at first, following the open-mic, but he quickly had the audience in the palm of his confidant hand. It may have seemed this theatre crowd would have been too posh for his blue material but he went down a storm, even garnering a potential date from an audience member.
Louise Fazackerley is the winner of BBC R3 Verb New Voices and her poetry performance was polished yet personal. Everyday topics become magical in Louise’s poetry, from the Northern rain to a horse in a council estate courtyard. She is a real talent and great fun to watch perform. Finally, the hip-hop trio Foreign Interlood exuded youth, raw passion and were endearingly rough around the edges. The young men, spear-headed by Lupin &Hitchhiker, were witty in their hip-hop rhymes – “I do terrible things then write about it after” – and got the whole audience up on their feet.
Pen:Chant makes for an exciting night of different artforms and, while undeniably there is no guarantee that you’ll love it all, there is something for everyone to discover and enjoy.
Pen:Chant occurs at fringe venues across Manchester throughout the year
Reviewed on 19 January, 2017