Award-winning poet Andrea Gibson delivered a compelling and entertaining show to an intimate audience, seated under the low atmospheric lights of Komedia.
Gibson took to the stage insisting on two things. First, that they’re funny. Second, that tonight’s show has to be a little different from yesterday’s London performance, because some fans were in tow for Brighton too.
They recall that a lot of their poetry is about love, so ‘Come Love’ is a fitting opener, especially under the romantic lighting of the venue. ‘Your Life’ follows and is the perfect introduction to them and their work for anyone unfamiliar. Gibson is non-binary (hence the them/they/theirs) and an advocate for LGBTQ rights. This reflects heavily in their work, and on the t-shirts boldly hanging behind the merch stand stating: “MY PRONOUNS HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN INVENTED YET”. These, along with a collection of their books and albums paint a bigger picture of an extensive body of nearly twenty years’ work. Also available were editioned prints by renowned illustrator Sarah J Coleman who has joined and collaborated for the UK leg of this tour (and whose illustrations adorn the stage backdrop).
‘To The Men Catcalling My Girlfriend As I’m Walking Beside Her’ is the next poem and the first to receive the audiences laugh-out-loud reactions, verifying Gibson’s opening statement and demonstrating the ease with which they can highlight and make light of the frustrations of everyday occurrences of misogyny. Such instances have been brought to light by recent online campaigns such as Laura Bates’ #EverydaySexism and the global #MeToo movement which have seen millions of people declaring enough is enough. Gibson’s words in this work are witty, cutting, very funny and serve to fight back at the perpetrators.
Things take a serious and emotional turn as Gibson introduces ‘Photoshopping My Sister’s Mugshot’ written for their sister, but dedicated to anyone that’s loved an addict. Followed by ‘The Day You Took Your Life Because You Wanted To’ written for someone close who committed suicide. With moving and compassionate words like “I wont let anyone say it was a shallow thing you did / I knew it was your entire body finally pointing / Saying here, here is where the pain is,” Gibson shows no inhibition in approaching difficult subjects.
Most notably, Gibson’s poem ‘Orlando’, a heart-wrenching and vivid account of what happened at Pulse nightclub in 2016, struck a chord with Brighton’s audience. It’s a poem that should go down in the history of speaking out for LGBTQ rights. You could hear their pain in the delivery, as Gibson affirms this is the hardest poem to read “because the world isn’t getting easier”. The reading was met with a delayed applause, the audience momentarily silent and agape at their words.
Gibson raises the mood with free-flowing and easy conversation between poems. They make a comical call-out for a ‘cough drop’, which an audience member duly provides, before realising English cough sweets are bigger than they’re used to – no one wants to hear spoken words muffled by the ‘nom’ ‘nom’ ‘nom’ noises.
“Depression or Anxiety?” Gibson calls out topics in an effort to steer away from the previous night’s set-list. There’s little chance the returning London audience had heard ‘Panic Button Collector’. It’s nervously delivered in a way to sound like a panic attack, and not often performed. “I might just have a panic attack whilst reading this,” jokes Gibson, reaching for the poem’s unfamiliar words from an audience member’s book, whilst encouraging the audience to laugh along in order to ward off the imminent attack. In spite of this, Gibson cites the stage as where they feel most at ease and least anxious in life generally.
The night ended as it had begun. With an abundance of love, humour and wit, delivered effortlessly with the performance of ‘Fight For Love’ from recent album ‘Hey Galaxy’. It’s a brilliant account of arguing with a partner, full of humour and awkwardness. The audience was left moved, uplifted and fighting over the aforementioned slogan t-shirts that apparently exceeded the weight allowance for Gibson’s flight to next stop Berlin.
Komedia, Monday 4th June 2018
Words and photos by Francesca Moore