Thursday, April 06, 2006
Francesca and the Troubagangers
Scooted off to British Council yesterday for a lunch-time interview with performance poet Jessica Beard over pizza in the courtyard. (Here pictured with daughter Lola Choo who is learning how to follow in her mum's footsteps.) It was as much a meeting with a friend, because we'd met in Manila last November when I got my first taste of what Performance Poetry is all about in Francesca's workshop sessions.
Then at night the La Bodega gig. Francesca and the Troubagangers – a showcase of local talents. There was something for sure at stake for both parties. This was Francesca’s first ever Malaysian performance even though her roots are here (half-Malaysian, she was born in Assunta Hospital and grew up in Penang).
And our local guys had something to prove too - would their performances flag and sag when put side by side with a professional performer/poet of Francesca’s? As it turned out, it was a totally brilliant evening.
The upstairs of La Bodega was packed to the rafters with an incredibly supportive crowd. (This was Wednesday and this was poetry for heaven’s sake!) Jerome and Yasmin Low compared the evening incomparably. (Though Jerome added me to the list of people to read on the open mic afterwards ‘cos he said I was a heckler! Not good.)
Francesca was totally connected with the audience as she shared hilarious stories about her childhood,her dog Fluffy, multicultural encounters in Tesco’s and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Poetry meets stand-up comedy meets song.
But this is the heart of it - her poems were addressed directly to the audience, drawing them in, in a way that reading them out cannot. One poem was a survey about which way we'd prefer to die if we could choose (being eaten by a lion in KLCC Park, getting chainsawed by a nutter, left to drift slowly into outer space ... ) - a grimly funny piece, which had her soliciting views from the audience. Poetry that talks and lets you talk back.
The Troubagangers were on top form, feeding on the electricity of the occasion. Most of all I enjoyed: Jerome's lyricism, Fahmi Fadzil's No Exit (which he improvised on for the occasion), Ruhayat X performing his piece about the pencil, another dose of Pang's encounters in the dark, Sharanya's very sexy poem about everything wanting to make love to her ...
But it was Rahmat Harun's rollercoaster ride of a performance of Keranamu Malaysia which came closest to upstaging Francesca ...
I came away inspired. Syabas to all who worked so hard to pull the evening together and a special mention for Sunitha Janamohanan of British Council and her team.
(Below - Francesca relaxes with a glass of wine after the performance.)