On Saturday night Oxford played host to the actor-come-poet-come-comedian, Matt Panesh, aka the Monkey Poet.
This was a show of two very different halves. For the first 45 minutes, the audience was treated to a one-man play, as Panesh related the story of the first Anglo-Afghan war in the 1840s. The material, adapted from Lt. Greenwood’s autobiographical account of the conflict, was vividly authentic and Panesh’s lively delivery was captivating.
The second half was an altogether different beast, as Panesh swapped his jug of water for 2 bottles of lager, and morphed from storyteller into political, stand-up poet. Through a series of political – and highly critical – poems, Panesh raged against the state of the UK today. His targets were the BNP, celebrity culture, the Afghanistan war and, of course, politicians. Sadly, Panesh’s leftist rants were nothing new to anyone familiar with the performance poetry scene, at least in Oxford. Indeed, while most of the poems were thoughtfully devised and relied on quite brainy language play, it was disappointing that Panesh at one point felt the need to lower the tone by asking the audience to shout out “fucking wankers” in response to his question, “what are politicians?”
The quality of the performance itself, however, cannot be disputed. Panesh’s delivery was seamless, and his passion infectious – these were poems and stories written and performed from the heart. And, despite his potty-mouthed exterior, inside Matt Panesh clearly beats the heart of a dreamer. The point of his history lesson, and of his tirade against ‘the system’ – is that Monkey Poet is just a bloke who yearns for peace, and a bit of common decency. (Plus he’s a really nice bloke – he happened to amble past our narrowboat on the Sunday after the gig and stopped for a yack).
Amy Hopkins (DI Reviewer), 27/03/12
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