The spoken word, an art form as old as speech itself and one that has never gone out of fashion. It has grown into written literature, stand-up comedy and rap music, whimsical words weaving delicate and dour patterns of rhythmic story telling.
There is a special feeling reserved for when one is listening to a good spoken word performance. It can grab you by the ears and hold you still, the ebb and the flow of the words drawing you in until you're intoxicated, fully submerged in whatever story the performer is spinning. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you see things in an entirely new light.
With an event like Edinburgh Fringe, the spoken word takes centre stage in many forms, and one such artist will be taking to that stage for the month of August.
This August, the funniest, angriest, sharpest, most sarcastic wordsmith to come out of Scotland will be returning to the Fringe, fuelled by shortbread and anarchic wit. From Piers Morgan to fake news, artisanal novichok to our post-truth world, no topic is untouched as McGonagall gets ready to delight Edinburgh with an hour of dazzling Weltschmerz.
After becoming the 2006 World Slam Champion, McGonagall went on to appear on the first ever edition of BBC Radio 4's Sony Gold Award winning Saturday Live that same year, installing himself as a regular feature. He's become a familiar disembodied voice on BBC Radio 4 through shows like Elvis McGonagall Takes a Look on the Bright Side, Today, and A Good Read among others, as well as writing and presenting documentaries A Doggerel Bard and Beacons and Blue Remembered Hills.
We caught up with McGonagall before he hits Edinburgh at the end of this month to talk performance poetry, the new show and the process behind it, read what he had to say below:
Did you start out as a performance poet straight away, or was there a time when it was purely pen to paper?
"I was born to flounce along the cliff-tops declaiming verse in my fedora, ocelot coat and Cuban heels, so it was straight to the glitterin’ world of showbiz for me. I’ve suffered for my poetry. It seemed only fair and reasonable that others should as well."
What do you believe constitutes a good poetry performance, and what can lead to a bad one?
"It’s good if you’re not desperate to leave the room. If it involves avant-garde jazz dance to a soundtrack of Ed Sheeran it’s bad. As a rule, if my friend the renowned folk singer Mr Crampton is in the audience and has taken off his spectacles, we’re all in trouble. Specs on? Then it’s a good evening."
How do you approach creating your own pieces and writing commissions like for Laphroaig?
"I write what I feel I can interpret whilst wearing a leotard. Writing commissions depends on the size of the gas bill."
As a Scotsman yourself, why do you think Edinburgh has become such a global hub for the performing arts?
Can we expect some new poetry as well as old favourites at your performances in the Voodoo Rooms this August?
"It’s all brand spanking new. New since I was last at the Fringe three years ago, that is. There might be a greatest hit in there. But all very zeitgeisty. And dangerous. Don’t miss it."
Elvis McGonagall will be performing at the Voodoo Rooms in the French Quarter from the 4th August to the 26th (not the 14th) at 12:20pm!
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