WONDERZOO @ A -TASHKINA


[UNION STREET PL1 3LU]
Thurs 27-2-20
Review Pete Golding Podcast HiP.P

New venue. New event. New start. New audience. Some new faces. Some new performers. Something new to write home about. Indeed RAE WETHERILL opened this evening with four gorgeous songs issuing from a luscious voice that could melt even the most cynical in the room. A gorgeous voice of soaring purity which sang of love and loss and Totnes as she strummed her guitar while wreathing us with her delightful original compositions. Fabulous start to a frenetic evening. You have to listen to RAE WETHERILL on the podcast so lovingly created by our sound-man HiP.P. It's a must. A little bit of heaven.

MARGARET PARKER followed and delivered only one poem but a fine crafted piece aimed at the fickleness of being famous entitled Fame Is A Flame. Incendiary stuff from one of WonderZoo's very first performers.

JACKIE WACHA asked the assembled to heckle her as she pronounced her take on global warming and climate change. She proceeded to describe in prose-poetry the optimism we felt about President Obama and the Arab Spring. Heady days. Heady stuff. A commanding performance.

MATT THOMAS included some of his signature 'found poems' but concluded by reading out an extended extract of his unexpurgated memoirs of being on the road with a rock and roll band in 1990 in the United States. He was there, living the life. Where were you? Thanks to MATT we are given an insight into another place and time and a fascinating alternative reality.

Before the intermission PETE DAVEY and MARGARET CORVID swapped compositions and accompanied by percussionists SARAH ADAMS, JONATHAN SPURLING & CHI BENNETT, with JAK WHITFIELD on trumpet, together delivered a chaotic onslaught on an unsuspecting public. Discordant. Raucous. Confrontational and cacophonous, this was an assault on sense and sensibility and lived up to its eerie appellation AKA GRUNGE DAVEY and FRIENDS of the APOCALYPSE! Unrepeatable.

After a short intermission JAK WHITFIELD took centre stage and delivered three pieces to a backing-track while playing a deliberately discordant trumpet or reciting his satirical take on Greta Thunberg or our hollow leaders. JAK is an extraordinary extrovert performer whether he is trumpeting, singing, dancing or cavorting, ya can't look away.

SAM RICHARDS recited three heart-felt poetic pieces. The first was dedicated to fire-fighter, Harry Pritchard, the second was inspired by legendary blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, and the third and final piece was addressed to the whole country [England: Who's England] The first couple may be described as eulogistic and inspiring but the last was jocular while tinged with disappointment.

JULIAN ISAACS has such a body of work he can ask members of the audience to shout out a number and he can summon up a well-crafted poem to match it. He took us to the Tate to view a portrait of death, he reminded us of the torment of the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, he took us to Liverpool and even became post-operative. JULIAN can take an audience to extraordinary places both emotionally and imaginatively and it's an adventure. He is the captain of a treasure trove of gold.

BRIAN HERDMAN concluded our evening by reading out three original compositions. However like MATT THOMAS he began by turning to 'found poetry' [although in this instance BRIAN was illustrating a political point about the monetisation of our national health service] Normal service resumed with BRIAN berating those who reckon we are on a journey. It's not a journey, he announced and he was equally sickened by today's politics and politicians. “I'm sick of it,” he declared but he did have some kind words for SAM RICHARDS and nostalgia for the 1960s.

BRIAN HERDMAN has real stage presence, which combined with his excellent word-craft and made his star turn a worthy crescendo to a capricious evening. WonderZoo is never predictable and never the same twice. Watch this space for the next event but be prepared for something unprecedented and extraordinary.

Finally! I'd like to thank Pete DAVEY, Gabi MARCELLUS-TEMPLE, Chiori BENNETT, and the staff at A -TASHKINA for arranging this quite wondrous WonderZoo event as well as all the performers for their wonderful contributions and, HiP.P, for doing the sound expertly and arranging the podcast.