REVIEW: Loud Poets, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 ★★★★☆

I’ve been blessed in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe to get to see such a variety of shows: stand-up, musicals, sci-fi, and now spoken word poetry. Loud Poets is a poetry collective platforming different, exciting poets every night of their run and, if the other nights are anything like the performance I attended, it’s well worth a visit.

Host Kevin McLean is an enigmatic and exuberant stage presence, bringing the audience on side early and ensuring that everyone’s in just the right mood to watch some poetry. The image of poetry as dusty, scrawled on parchment for purposes of A-Level learning – or of it as corny and clichéd, invariably about love or loss and never straying far from type, is swiftly eradicated.

The poets (Callum O’Dwyer, Ben Fagan and Sara Hirsch) are funny and soulful in one; their poems are alive, they are vibrant, they are polemic, drawing out such a broad range of emotions from the audience all at the same time. Fagan’s poetic adaptation of his texts with his father was funny and sweet in the way which can only be brought out through familial connections; ditto for Hirsch’s about falling in love at the Fringe, moments of tenderness against the backdrop of a month of manic theatre. And O’Dwyer’s defence of health and safety culture, of how red tape holds the country together, was particularly moving, especially considering it was framed through the context of the Grenfell tragedy.

Moreover, the format itself is interesting: each poet began by reading out the first-ever poem they wrote, with the aim of demonstrating the evolution in quality from then and now. It certainly did its job, whilst also convincing me that their poetry at its worst remains much stronger than mine at my best. The second round, responding to one-word prompts with their pre-existing poems, also ensured for a diversity of content and kept the show moving.

If you’re looking for something a little different from the Fringe, and you happen to be a fan of poetry, then Binge Fringe recommends going to see some Loud Poets: Best of Fringe, on at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, 21:30, until August 26th (excl. August 19th).