Fringe review: Voice and the Verse

Sit back with a beer in the candlelit cellar of U Malého Glena and be seduced by the words and tunes of these four Irishmen. It may be the most mellow experience of the Fringe. Two poets and two singers (but those definitions are fluid) bring to this show not only talent but charm. They are self-confident and self-deprecating at the same time.

When Neil McCarthy stepped up to the microphone I was reminded of the sheer musicality of a Cork accent. I should know – I’m Irish, and part of me belongs to Cork. But I had forgotten. McCarthy’s delivery of such poems as ‘Sketches of Morning’ gave to his sparse lines a flow and rhythm, which were truly musical.
The very darkly witty Stephen Murray (the butt of the others’ banter) released words and ideas in his poetry which had hidden thorns. How could the audience laugh at “the nastiest thing I’ve ever written”? And yet we did – we laughed at what was essentially a poem about child abuse. Murray clothes everything in silk. I want to hear more.

Music was present in, or under, most of the readings and sometimes took centre stage in the hands of Dan Donnelly and Niall Connolly. While Donnelly is probably the more musically diverse (both ‘Cruelty’ and ‘Diamonds on the Road’ draw on well-established styles with humour and intelligence), it was in the raw vocal strength of Niall Connolly’s songs that I found the most poignant moments of the evening.
The four men perform together with a casual, easy, mutual respect. It is a delight to watch their pleasure in their own, and each others’ work.

The Voice and the Verse may not set the house on fire, but it will leave a wonderfully warm glow as the audience resonates with the final chorus of Connolly’s last song even after the performers have walked offstage.

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