Pucker Poets ‘Farewell’ gig at the B-Bar

By Jess Holliland

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Antonia Raines

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Antonia Raines: Photo credit TickTock

A very packed B-bar and a smiling Alexander Rhodes greeted me as I arrived at the Barbican theatre to see the Pucker Poets last week.
I stole the face of the outfit away from his post by the door for a few minutes to get the low down on Pucker Poets and why this is billed as a ‘Farewell gig’. He explains it’s a nice irony to be in the B-bar on this night as it was where he did his first ever gig 3 years ago but really this isn’t a Farewell gig in the true sense of the word. Alexander is leaving in the morning to spend the winter in Spain writing his new show but the goodbye is more about an experiment he’s conducting to gather new material; Alexander and Pucker Poets are leaving Facebook, cutting out the Blue filter to see what happens when you communicate in a more organic way in preparation for his 2019 show “Wonderland”.

He’s quick to reassure me that it’s only a farewell from Facebook really because he will be back in May for his debut solo show ‘One foot in the rave’ which will be touring the UK until October, visiting 10 major towns in the UK including Edinburgh Fringe (the application is in to Plymouth Fringe). There will also be the 2nd Plymouth Literature Festival Slam and Pucker Poets special to look forward to as well as performances at Glas-Denbury festival, interventions with Forked: Apples and Snakes and the potential for a few pop up event here in Plymouth and around the South West.

I’d never been to a spoken word event before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. A part of me had visions of beatnik poets from the 50’s with black polo necks, berets and intense pauses. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. I grabbed a chair on the end of a table of friendly people and enjoyed the atmosphere of red lights, perfect resonance and a delightfully intimate venue as the compère Robert Garnham, came on stage to warm us up with humorously rhythmic tales of jellyfish, badgers who believe they’re on Eastenders and an uncomfortably sexualized tale of being a lighthouse keeper. The audience laughed and the atmosphere was light – not a beatnik in sight.

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Robert Garnham : Photo credit TickTock
Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Sam Richards : Photo credit TickTock

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Sam Richards : Photo credit TickTock

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. : Photo credit TickTock

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar.  : Photo credit TickTock

Antonia Raines graced the stage next, her own debut bringing us a selection of her thoughts on feminism, fundraisers and equality. The fierceness of her views contrasting with the humour Robert introduced us to. A multi skilled performer, her musical talents also graced us in the interval as she sang for the audience. Sam Richards followed her and he was a revelation; he painted pictures with his melodic musings and brought his stories vividly to life. By the time he’d finished telling us his story of a restaurant in London I felt like I knew the owner Stavros personally and might nip down there tomorrow night for a meal.

Interjecting the professional poets I was introduced to the art of the poetry ‘slam’ and audience interaction. Two poets at a time presented their work with passion on the stage and we were invited to vote for the one we enjoyed most via a ‘binary choosing’ with playing cards of red or blue, the two winners then spoke again against each other to win the final prize, it was an interesting interjection and a valuable way to nurture the local poetry scene but for me it wasn’t the highlight of the evening and felt a little awkward.

We returned to the professional poets with the lyrical hilarity and randomness of Chris White. Bridging a space between stand up and poetry he brought a different layer to the evening, light hearted, nonsensical and accessible. He asked questions with no answer, answered questions no one had asked and offered timely reminders of the effects of wine. As Chris (reluctantly) left the stage we welcomed Alexander Rhodes himself who managed the stage with an intense and captivating style. The pattern of his voice was almost hypnotic with perfectly placed pauses moving it from spoken word to musical lyrics as he shared his own no-nonsense take on spirituality and life in the modern world.

 Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar : Photo credit TickTock
 Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Alexander Rhodes : Photo credit TickTock

Pucker poets Farewell Gig at the B-bar. Alexander Rhodes : Photo credit TickTock

I was surprised by the variety of the styles I saw. I was also engaged, entertained, and at times, enthralled by the clever use of rhythm and timing to move stories around the room. I’m converted, and I will definitely be heading down to the welcome home event in May. You won’t find them on Social media for reasons explained above but you can keep up to date with their plans via the website below.