Nina Lewis, Verve’s in-house blogger over the festival, reflects on what the hell happened at Hit the Ode Tech Special last night (I was completely lost too, then I read this blog).
HTO is a much acclaimed night brought to us by Aliyah Hasinah, Apples & Snakes. From the soft sheen of the Poetry Parlour to the rampaging arena of Hit the Ode, where tech and poetry met sensationally in raucous union. Anyone who has been before (about half the audience), knows they’re LIVELY events, foot stamping and high emotion encouraged.
The atmosphere was set to ‘buzz’ straight away as host, Bohdan Piasecki led us through a roller-coaster of audience initiated emotions in the traditional ‘Emotional Warm Up’. Frenzied audience ready, standard comedic rants delivered (Uber Taxis and Football), the open mic section began. A mixture of veteran performers, new faces and one young poet who had NEVER performed before!
HTO has three headliners: Local, National and International. They have never had a poet from Japan. What was about to take place in Waterstones was something not many people had ever seen the like of and the only sound to come close to matching it was the collective noise of a room full of Festival goers having their minds blown simultaneously. I am of course talking about the powerhouse that is Tomomi Adachi.
I saw a bit of the tech rehearsal, had I not been privy to this experience, I am not sure what I would have made of Tomomi’s work. Incredible does not cover it, prodigious does. The audience were certainly mesmerised.
Tomomi’s initial poem, performed in Japanese, demonstrated amazing voice work as he sped through fast-forward rate, barely taking breath, inhalations disappearing as he performed at an Olympic speed. Something to behold. His second poem inspired from a theatre piece saw a fascinating treatment of cadence and inclination, testimony to the size of this man’s diaphragm! He made use of the pace, occasional comic timing – ‘I think we have met somewhere before’ and dramatic pauses. If you weren’t there it is hard to describe, imagine you are in a room with 100 TVs all set to a different advert playing at the same time and you will have an inkling of the layering involved in Tomomi’s exceptional sound masterpiece.
Then came the wearable tech! Every movement moderated his voice, we watched in amazement. The audience both shocked and transfixed by his work. At the interval, Bohdan invited us ‘to go and find a corner and think about what just happened!’ The audience was certainly divided into overwhelmed and dazed.
‘That was so new what we just heard.’ Festival goer.
Barely recovered, we were onto the second part of the evening, a collaborative work ‘Pluto’ with Hannah Silva and Tomomi Adachi. I was excited to see Hannah back at Verve. She was my first experience of Voice poetry (2015). She was incredibly nervous to perform with the best sound poet in the world. Tomomi has been using wearable tech for a decade compared to just over a week for Hannah. He agreed to the collaboration, proof he believed in her ability to work alongside him and he was not wrong.
What followed was a spectacle, a World Première of the 2nd red shirt and their work ‘Pluto’. A world of precise movement, tech, dance and poetry collide. A mime of insects crawling up an arm, little voices coming from nowhere, playing with pace, loops, singing and phonetics. The duets reminded me of a more fluid version of Robotic dancing (a big deal in the 80s). The way these two artists manipulated sound. Wow. An intense exploration with moments of pure play and if all this wasn’t enough, with wired shirts they even managed to swap places on stage!
Pluto: A masterful performance feat, superb!
More open mics started the third section, including the Birmingham University Slam Team Champions demonstrating why they won the recent competition with a piece inspired by Hannah Silva’s Verve workshop last year.
And then… Yomi Sode, who blew me away with his performance. A feast of words that I wanted serving all night. His performance took elements from his show Coat and involved a more familiar use of tech, the sound-scape with spoken word layered on top. He treated us to three poems and seemed to feel ‘unworthy’ of the tech element after what we had all just witnessed. In reality his set was the perfect ending to the evening. It left us wanting more.
I loved ‘What the Living Do’ and ‘The Void’. He talked about his show, the connection to his family and cooking. Yomi invited us to close our eyes and take it all in, feel the sway of poetry. His dramatic monologue had all the right ingredients.
His hip-hop vibe to conclude the evening was a high note to go out on. Usually I cringe at audience participation, but there was nothing wrong with Yomi’s call to respond. I thoroughly enjoyed his final poem ‘Okay, okay, okay…check the situation.’ echoing in my ears all the way back home.