Cure or Be Cured Review by Stuart Olesker

Out of the darkness of a pre-halloween night appears a brightly illuminated 16th century castle. A phantasmagoria of projected images transforms Henry VIII’s Southsea Castle into an unsettling and intriguing occasion for a curious public.

We are in the realm of a macabre and often dreamlike event by the name of ‘Cure or be Cured ‘part of Portsmouth DarkFest , offering opportunities for both local and national artists, poets, musicians and such to perform and disturb in equal measure.

The theme for the evening is ‘Cure or be Cured’. Crow-masked plague doctors mingle and interact with an amused or uncertain audience. An ebullient Master of Ceremonies introduces a range of performers and his presence helps give form to a diversity of acts. Here poetry of all shapes and sizes finds expression: be it a moving piece about a dying child, the  shamanistic  world of altered states, a Victorian ghost ballad or an anarchic bid for world domination by a quirky but entertaining and crowd pleasing performer, plucking unsuspecting (?) volunteers from a delighted, though justly nervous, audience. A cheerfully delivered musical catalogue of the many Victorian labels for mental illness precedes what is for me the most memorable performance of the evening: a highly skilful Spoken Word poet juggles with language and rhythm with relaxed expertise that stays in the mind long after the show ends.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for ‘Vulture’ whose attempts to introduce a political element to the evening (NHS) soon becomes lost in what seems to me an endlessly repetitive, self indulgent noise. But it apparently appeals to others and my somewhat jaundiced view may be as much to do with my age as anything else.

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There was certainly diversity at this year’s Dark Fest and I admire the boldness of the enterprise. It was not afraid to take risks (what would have happened if the weather had been less kind?).  Tighter direction could, I felt, have interrelated the items more effectively and given a little more coherence to the evening. However, these are early days and there is a sense here of an original home grown entertainment in its relative infancy. It has already attracted a wide audience and will surely evolve into something rich and strange.

Did You Love Me, Did I Love You? by Philip Wilson

Well did you?
Did I?
Yes we did,
too much.
We fell over each other,
cajoling ourselves to do the best for each other.
Always.
Scared at the end to speak,
so we did not hurt each other.
The love so deep that silence was golden
because,
we did not cut deep scars into our souls that way.
Touch had become full of remorse
and guilt so rarely happened.
The one act we did together,
without regret,
was to give our daughter all our love and which proved to be
our best success.
We created a woman of fire,
with a burning understanding and zest for life.
She attracted a man of equal passion
and flame,
so our love will forever be alive,
used as we intended, for and by the child we dreamed off.
As it should.

Tall White Privilege by John Kelly

I wrote today, on Facebook, about white privilege.
quite eruditely I thought – I’m white, so why would I think any other way?
I was taunting someone who felt picked-on because he was white.
“What do you expect you c*nt?” I thought.
We’ve enslaved, and suppressed, non-whites for centuries, and now they’re getting uppity about it.
Also today, in the car, on radio 6, they talked about cunts like me
6 foot 3.
Janice, 5 foot 2, said: “why do tall people always stand in front of me at festivals?”
I realised then I had not just white privilege, but tall white privilege.
Like your shade of skin, you’re never really aware of… your height
I stoop, therefore I am.
I always have – mostly due to painful shyness inside
but sometimes, just to be able to hear my short friends.
At Victorious, someone stood in front of me: 6 foot 6 at least
I couldn’t see, and I thought… c*nt