REVIEW: Roger McGough and Little Machine, St George’s Guildhall

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I’ve always struggled a bit with poetry, usually unless it’s clearly meant to be humourous.

I think the decisive blow was delivered in my A level English classes when I read some of the works of Philip Larkin and tried in vain to find much in the ones we looked at to smile about.

Yet if there is one verse that has stuck in my mind more than any other, it is probably the most famous one of Larkin’s.

Anyone who has read his work will probably have guessed it’s the rather uncharitable one about parenting. I won’t repeat it here.

But, as Little Machine performed their musical arrangement of that same poem, and others, to a packed St George’s Guildhall audience, it occurred to me that this might have been a solution all along.

Being able to sit back and listen to poems set to music, rather than poring over those same words on a printed page, seems to make them that bit more accessible than they might otherwise be.

With Roger McGough and his considerable repertoire as well, they made for a fast-paced evening of verse which seemed to have all bases covered from the serious to the silly.

Some of the harder poems, in terms of subject, had the ability to make the audience wince a bit, but perhaps that is exactly what good art, whatever its form, should do.

Thankfully for this observer at least, the humour won out in the end, with the imagined thoughts of the less famous Mr Blyton providing a particular highlight, before a crowd-pleasing singalong to Lily the Pink rounded things off. Fortunately, there was no need for medicinal compounds afterwards.

ALLISTER WEBB