The Lost Poets at The Queen’s Hall tonight saw the re-union on stage of a group of now “old friends” who, with their live performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and The Netherbow Theatre (and other venues) in the 1970s and 1980s, won a loyal following of fans with their unique blend of poetry and music. Perhaps, without even realising it at the time, The Lost Poets - Ron Butlin, Andrew Greig, Liz Lochhead, Brian McCabe and musician Jim Hutcheson - created (or at least helped to create) what we now call “Spoken Word” performance.
Over the years since these original performances, each of our Lost Poets has followed their own individual path in life and found success in many areas outside of poetry and the format of this show, which saw Jim Hutcheson playing music with Annie McCaig and Alex Nisbet while our four wordsmiths gave us spoken words both old and new, was just the perfect setting for a relaxed evening of humour, observation, and more than a little bit of reflection.
Many are the words that Ron Butlin, Andrew Greig, Liz Lochhead and Brian McCabe have written since those old performance days together and diverse has been their output, but always it is the poetry they return to. Something in the beat and the rhythm of those poetic words is obviously alive and calling to them still.
A lot of time has passed for our Lost Poets since the ‘70s and ‘80s, and those of us that can look back on those years and our own years can understand that time, and everything that happens to you has to mean that change is inevitable and it was interesting to hear in later words from our quartet how they had responded and recorded those changes to their own lives and experiences. There seemed to be many books and pieces of paper bearing witness to these changes on stage with them, and I could not help but thinking that this was the real way to record your thoughts, with pen, paper, and printed word, not as some stream of soulless digital code on a pen drive (or other storage device).
We have an instinctive need as people to be told stories and to tell stories, and as human beings we have probably been doing that as long as we have been able to communicate with one another in some way, and around a camp fire on open plains, in a cave, seated at the cabaret tables of the Queen’s Hall, nothing has changed, that connection of storyteller and audience remains just the same as it has always done. Stories will last forever and our modern life seems to be filled with ever increasing media for us to consume them from. We love making up stories so much that even much of our news is now fictional.
It was a pleasure to hear works both old and new from our storytellers, and some of them are available in a new collection of their combined work Horns & Wings & Stabiliser Things : The Lost Poets (Polygon). Somehow that title even made its way into a performance song this evening too.
As the words from our quartet make clear, growing older is a privilege that brings many things with it, but it sadly also can bring many losses too, there always it seems has to be a price to pay and a balance maintained in this life. Whilst not being morbid, more reflective and accepting the inevitability of the fact that we all meet our end one day, there was an obvious celebration in words here of life and living it to the full as long as you can. For some people there seems to be an acceptance that the Grim Reaper will touch us all at some time, but you can at least make sure that you turn life into a good game of “Catch Me if You Can”, and if the fates allow you the luxury, you stop running when only you are ready to do so.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH