Book Slam presents DBC Pierre and friends at the Clapham Grand
Whatever on your academic allegiances, it has been a good week for the English language. While the Oxford English Dictionary’s recognition of “twerk” and “selfie” as valid lexis might make you wince with embarrassment, it has been practically impossible to find an online news source that isn’t discussing contemporary linguistics. All of which made Book Slam’s latest club night at the Clapham Grand a particularly timely event.
First of all, the whole evening is about words. Whether spoken, sung or spat, tonight’s typically mixed bag encompasses a couple of poets, a comedian, a band and a novelist, and the distinction between one and another form is fairly fluid. There’s the usual crossover stand-up and slam poetry of course, but more exciting are the songwriting-as-verse-narrative offerings by Thabo & the Real Deal, and the lyric prose of Salena Godden (a fixture of the London live-lit scene fresh from Wednesday night’s Martin Luther King celebrations on the South Bank, who reads a visceral extract from a novelistic memoir alongside some new poems).
The combination calls for another amateur semantic point: while Book Slam persists in billing itself as a “club night”, it’s worth mentioning that the event adheres more closely to a 1930s cabaret definition of the term than its tacky 21st century equivalent.
The bill favours short sets by each performer. Australian stand-up Matt Okine comes to the stage direct from the Edinburgh Festival with a Fosters best newcomer nomination and ahead of a week at the Soho Theatre, which, to judge by tonight’s performance, is well worth a look. MC Francesca Beard and poet Michael Smith are less compelling, but never less than intriguing, if only in the inventiveness with which they flog the dead horse of self-deprecation.
The headliner by anyone’s lights though is DBC Pierre. Reading from Petit Mal, his new collection of “fragments”, of which he demurely notes “some are real, some are not”, the Booker Prize winner gives a brilliantly understated performance, blending surreal fantasy with visceral reportage, a half-passionate, half-ironic plea for the permanence of physical books in the digital age and some affecting stories of childhood told in crisp prose that borders on the aphoristic.
A snip at £8, there’s enough on the night’s bill (not to mention the event’s two superb line-ups for London and Bristol in September) to keep you amply entertained, whatever your definition of a good night out.
The editorial unit
Photos: Krish Nagari
For further information and future events visit the Book Slam website here.