I’ve never seen Live Canon perform before, but I had heard of them. They are a group of actors who learn poems and then recite them from memory. Some of the poems were declaimed in a more theatrical way than others. There is quite a large ensemble cast but last night only three of them were performing.
The idea of the show was to perform poetry from around the world. They started in England with a CS Lewis poem about Oxford, then moved across Europe; headed north into Scandinavia; back down to Eastern Europe… you get the picture. Of course much of the poetry had been translated into English rather than written in it, so it depended on the skill of the translator. Most of it was excellent.
There were some unintentional funny moments and quite a bit of audience participation. When dealing with Africa and South America, they had not learned the poems by heart. There were too many of them and the audience was invited to help select a few to be read. One of the actors, Jon Edgley Bond, a doppelganger for Hugh Grant, was given a poem about Patagonia. He stumbled over the pronunciation of a town’s name and a member of the audience shouted out “I bet you won’t want that one again.” He agreed and threw the poem over his shoulder!
They dealt with the Japanese Haiku by throwing balloons out to the audience and asking them to inflate and return them. Each balloon had a haiku written on it. The children in the audience loved this; it got them very animated.
Live Canon’s style is not at all pretentious. I was surprised there weren’t any school parties there; seeing poetry performed live is far more likely to inspire students than reading it from a book. It seems to me that English departments are missing a trick.
Towards the end of the show, they announced from the stage that they would be retreating to the bar and taking the remaining unread poems with them. There was an open invitation to join them there; to continue the readings in the bar. This was a lovely touch and had I not had two children with me I would have taken them up on it.