If Mouth Could Speak
- Gareth K Vile
- 25 August 2019
A step towards a poetry with dramaturgy
Timotei Cobeanu (poet and performer) and Michael Crean (composer and director) certainly engage with a dynamic dramaturgy that shifts this spoken-word monologue clear of the clichés of performance poetry: part of a generation of artists who are finding the theatricality of poetry, Cobeaneu has a rough, energetic style of verse, and inhabits the character of a young migrant pacing the streets of Peckham, reflecting on suicide and the glamour of the Big Smoke. Crean's electronic score provides an urgent, anxious bed to Cobeanu's wild observations, and the thoughtfulness of the production sets it ahead of many of its contemporaries, not least in the use of movement, lighting, characterisation and scenography.
Unfortunately, Cobeanu's character becomes a predictable persona in his wanderings: London becomes a woman, and the character just wants to have sex with her. It's a dull macho trope, drawing on the obnoxious arrogance of the Beats, Hemmingway and Bukowski, and the twisted verses and contemporary flow can't disguise the crassness and predictability. It detracts from the sympathy towards the character, who has moments of sensitivity, and derails what had been a complex look at the state of the excluded migrant through an inelegant and crude meditation on oral sex.
There is plenty to respect in the fusion of sound and language, and its brevity lends it a visceral intensity: it is a bracing experiment in the power of theatrical poetry that fails in the detail – for all his writhing, Cobeanu looks too healthy beneath his ragged clothes and the character, possibly in a coma, is not critiqued or challenged.
ZOO Playground, until 26 Aug, 6.25pm, £8 (£6.50).