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Book Slam, Corn Exchange, May 7
This visiting “literary club night” was an uncomfortable mix of a variety show, which would have been more at home on a smaller stage. Here, Natasha Beard’s relaxed presentation seemed more like she was winging it at times.
It was billed as a “slam”, suggesting ask-the-audience judging. Admittedly it would have been difficult to eliminate one of the first half’s line-up: Jackie Kay’s story of day one of her diet (day two never came) was perceptive and funny, so was Jon Macgregor’s chance incident with a sugar beet. Sapphire’s provocative poem to a returning soldier shook us from any comfort we’d settled down into but still, so far so good, and there were books to buy in the interval.
Beard had made a show of sussing us out, asking, “Has anyone here eaten leftovers/eaten squid/read a book/gardened today?” Surely this random test had no bearing on the second half.
Neither Andreya Triana’s nervous performance, nor the random competition to guess the writers’ favourite meals (all chicken!) would ease us into graphic readings about growing pubic hair, unsatisfying climaxes, earth-shattering orgasms and, worst of all, a little boy being abused by another.
Perhaps the writers thought that simply coming to Brighton meant they could be, or even should be, risqué. This was probably not quite what punters bargained for and more than a few will have travelled home dampened by more than the rain.