First up we had Lucy Cait, a student singer-songwriter who had a voice much older than her years. I should probably avoid comparisons with Laura Marling, but I don't really listen to that sort of stuff off my own bat, so of course this is what I thought of - but not just because I'm lazy but also because she seemed to have the same pattern of faster, upbeat music, followed by something more swelling. Voice-wise she reminded me of a higher pitched Tracy Chapman. Considering we were such a small group I thought she did really well in her performance, and used it to her advantage, getting us all to clap and sing along at various points. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw her crop up elsewhere in the future.
We then had a poet, who, funnily enough, I had seen before at Velvet Tongue. I thought he looked familiar but only realised when he did his erotic piece and mentioned where he'd performed it before. He was alright - I must admit, he didn't give me chills the way other people I've seen have, and even though he was performing political poetry that seemed to slot into my beliefs quite easily, for some reason I didn't relate that well. It felt forced to me, and I found myself drifting off slightly.
Kadeem, on the other hand (a co-host but this was his last show) had exactly the right touch of humour and serious points to think on, to keep me fully engaged in what he was saying.
After the break we had a special surprise, which I kind of don't want to spoil for anyone who may attend one of these in the future but at the same time I want to mention. Well, look away now if you don't want to know... Talking to Strangers isn't just a cool name. There is an element of this involved. One lucky punter is plucked from the audience and plunked down in a chair and the rest are invited to throw questions at him or her. When I went they picked a gnarly dude who was quite the character (his name was Leopold Growler which probably tells you all you need to know) and so it worked really well. He'd clearly travelled and seen a lot and wasn't shy to share his worldly wisdom with us in a very amusing manner.
As almost the headline act, we had a stand-up set from Andrew Doyle, who reminded me of a cross between Jack Dee and Stewart Lee in his mannerisms and way of speaking. After a slightly rocky start where I thought he might be unbearably arch, he turned out to be very funny. He certainly didn't hold back from throwing a few politically incorrect shocks out to the audience - even if some of them were 'quotes' from other people. (Talking about why he hasn't come out to his mother, he mentioned she once lamented 'Well, Aids did its best'). My only complaint would be that he seemed to think we couldn't handle it. Some of it was a little close to the bone (see above) but if it makes me laugh then it's acceptable in my mind.
And then finally the other co-host Sarah took to the stage and did some of her poetry - because what's the point of running a poetry night if you don't get to perform yourself?
The hostess, Sarah, I can imagine might be a little polarising - she has that sort of twee, girly demeanour that some might find irritating. Also, the girls that run it were either a bit tiddly, or just rather proprietorial, or both, as they had no qualms about shouting out or talking over the acts that were there (spoiling Andrew’s punchline in one instance). In another setting it would be construed as heckling but here it wasn’t malicious, just a by-product of encouraging everyone to get involved and the acts were quite happy to go along with it.