Live : Toria Garbutt / Roy03.08.2019 : Bloom Building [Birkenhead]
The Bloom Building is a slash of colour in the otherwise monochrome canvas of an industrial estate that lies next to Cammel Laird on the edge of Birkenhead docks.
A sultry summer evening saw the culture and mental health resource centre host a spoken word fund-raising event around the theme of "It's an inside job".
The programme ran for four hours, the early sets entertaining and thought provoking, with a charismatic performance by poet Mike Havana, and the abrasive, percussive psych-punk energy of Yammerer as highlights.
First, preceded by a short burst of PA music, Roy entered the room, wearing a hooded top and horror-dream gas mask, to deliver a high impact introduction.
Toria Garbutt then took the stage.
She offered no slow build of tension - her first words hammered at the audience's hearts, two minutes in and the shell around mine broke with a sudden grasp of emotion. Toria's stories are of struggle, marginalised lives and relationship dysfunction - their power means you cannot spectate but are empathetically drawn into the drama.
If you imagined the narrative arc of an epidode of Shane Meadows' This is England distilled into three minutes of poetry and truth, you might get near the feel of one of her compositions. Extend the comparison further, and as a performer Toria has the same mix of fragility, emotional depth and final revealed strength that Vicky McClure brought to the screen in Meadows' compulsive films. Mesmeric, Toria Garbutt commands your full attention every moment she is on stage.
Her recitals mapped out the intimacies of a slow motion rise from despair to actualisation. She closed with an uplifting part-lament for the lives of the prisoners she worked with in Hull.
Roy read his short stories from close typed sheets stapled precisely together and scrappy, hand written notebooks. They cover similar emotive ground to Toria's work, their heft worked up from harsh lived experience and a rare ability to express it.
Roy's sharpest piece here was a story about a claustrophobic explosion of family violence; a fatal release of pent up anger, sparked by an argument about a coat/jacket. It's a fiction, but it feels real; I have heard it before, I want to hear it again. As he finished the final set a sudden rain shower rattled applause against the corrugated sheets of the roof, bringing a cooling balm to the night.
The whole hour was well framed and structured, each performer offered two short alternate sets to interlace their work. Their similarities are their strengths. Both writers perform with hard earned voices; their stories are raw and energised by honesty, rooted in stressed homes and streets, illuminated by blank insight and humour.
The evening ended with the pair sharing the stage to offer a last, rising wave of love and hope - immediately reflected back by a raucous standing ovation from the crowd.
This was performance as a natural, essential expression, and it was a stunning, darkly beautiful thing to witness.