Brian Patten and Roger McGough

Liverpool Everyman
20th June 2011

Reviewed by Darren Guy

Memories of Liverpool, of the Everyman Theatre and of course lots of great poetry took place at the this memorable event. As Liverpool’s most famous poets, Brian Patten and Roger McGough came to pay their respects for the theatre that will shortly be knocked down.

Patten and McGough were joined occasionally by guitarist Andy Roberts, who played on the album, The Incredible New Liverpool Scene, with McGough and Adrian Henri in 1967 - Roberts adding to the warm but sometimes tense atmosphere.

To be honest, I am a big fan of Patten, and sometimes enjoy McGough as a performer rather than a poet on the page. Together they worked excellently, moving from humour through to seriousness as they covered character, both mean and kind, taking the audience on a journey of the city, of the Everyman and further afield. A journey of loves lost, joy, laughter, sadness and death.

The second half stole it for me, as both Patten and McGough raised the bar - Patten bringing in a handful of poems from what I consider to be his greatest book ‘Armada’. During his reading 0f ‘Cinders Now’ and ‘Armada’ I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

And you, mother, stood behind me,
impatient to be going,
old at twenty-three, alone,
thin overcoat flapping.
How closely the past shadows us.
In a hospital a mile or so from that pond
I kneel beside your bed and, closing my eyes,
reach out across forty years to touch once more
that pond's cool surface,
and it is your cool skin I'm touching;
for as on a pond a child's paper boat
was blown out of reach
by the smallest gust of wind,
so too have you been blown out of reach
by the smallest whisper of death,
and a childhood memory is sharpened,
and the heart burns as that armada burnt,
long, long ago.

McGough finished the show with a series of poems - a parable of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World Wife’ bringing howls of laughter, using the husbands of well known famous women as the butt of humour.

We might not see Patten and McGough in Liverpool for awhile, but when they are back make sure you book your ticket.

Read an interview with Brian Patten here:

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