A night club seems like an odd place for a spoken word performance – one usually associates the medium with rustic coffee shops and street corners. But the second floor of Edinburgh’s Silk seemed apt tonight. Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up played as we took to our seats, and as we did Dominic Berry – casually chatting to us before he began – told us that the choice of music was due to his act being set in the 90s. What better setting to bring out the mood of chemical generation poetry than a club? And it really did work.
The set didn’t consist of jaw-grinding rave stories though; it was a hilarious, emotional and occasionally dark set of autobiographical poems. Throughout the hour, Berry never did the same thing twice; we never knew what was coming next.
The opening poem, “Final Boss” centred on agoraphobia; the title echoed in the piece as the theme of video game escapism was explored, as well as how much like a game’s boss fight this crushing phobia must be. There was an effective use of sibilance throughout as Berry hissed that he feared the children who “spat at” him, while he was surviving on “half a can of soup” because he was afraid to do shopping.
The theme of masculinity frequently came up, and was often used in his lighter, more comic poems. Berry contrasted his homosexual vegan lifestyle with the typical straight-macho archetype – “beef stocky guys, raised on pork pies”. This line, like so many of his others, is memorable for its clever word-play, catchy rhyme, and surreal imagery. To put “beef” before the adjective “stocky” is simple but ingeniously transformative.
There were a few beat poems with backing tracks, which at times, impressively, turned into rapping. There were a few beautifully nerdy moments here, especially when a “get over here!” from Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion was sampled.
His little asides in between poems were hilarious, too – “Mortal Kombat isn’t violent; it’s Eastern, it’s Zen – Nirvana as you’re ripping a woman’s spine out.” But they could also be sobering, as he introduced pieces about childhood trauma.
Surprisingly, there were only five in the crowd. With it nearing the end of the Fringe, maybe his fans had been and gone. Yet, perhaps selfishly, I was glad it was such a small audience – it was incredibly personal, and he engaged with all of us individually on more than one occasion. It created an intimate atmosphere that wouldn’t have been there with a full house. It was like meeting an interesting character at a party, as we’ve all done at some point, who’s full of energy, manages to make you laugh and ponder simultaneously, and leaves you grinning and enlightened. He’s on until the 27th – don’t miss him.