It’s amazing how little we need to create vivid stories in our minds. That we can create worlds and people from pages in a book, from the sound of someone’s voice or the look in their eyes. That’s the beauty of spoken word, or live storytelling. From as little as words in a room from one performer we can project a whole world in front of our eyes. Celebrating the dialogue between performer and audience – and all those delicious words in between – The Last Word Festival takes off at the Roundhouse with a line-up of the most exciting spoken word artists.
Lost in Blue sets us in the small Sackler space, invaded by an army of cardboard boxes that’d make frequent London-movers wince. Accompanied by a lonely keyboard and bubbly northerner Debs Newbold we’re off for what feels like a safe, heart-warming start.
Heart-warming – certainly. But Lost in Blue is also heart-breaking as the sad coincidences in life start to reveal themselves in Newbold’s story of family and following your dreams.
Sarah is bringing her seventeen year old daughter Annie back to the UK after fifteen years in Australia. For Annie it’s a chance to be accepted at a prestigious art school and finally meet her dad – for Sarah it’s a terrifying reminder of the past. Paul has been in a coma for fifteen years, unaware of losing out on his daughter’s life in Australia. He’s spent his time sketching in Vincent van Gogh’s Blue Room (or Bedroom in Arles) somewhere deep in his subconscious. As Sarah and Annie settle in Birmingham and Annie is reunited with her dad, Paul’s life in the Blue Room starts to shift – and as Van Gogh grows more insulting, Annie’s influence slowly reaches him in the Blue Room.
Using just her own performance, partner-in-crime keyboard and a microphone, Newbold manages to wrap the story around us like a blanket the family would share at Christmas – we feel strangely moved by her words, listening to the story of a family trying to reunite after disaster. Despite struggling with illness and losing her voice – which resulted in a short interval that slightly threw us out of the story “flow” – Newbold proves that sometimes words and a performer-audience connection is all it takes to make an impact. It feels like a great audio book – your mind builds imagery as Paul’s comatose takes us through a surreal world of Van Gogh and passion – but Newbold’s energy adds a layer that can’t be experienced on your own. Lost in Blue is not world-breaking but it proves that stories bring us together. If you’re a bit tired of the two-dimensional relationship with your kindle, then the Last Word Festival might just be the spice you need.
Photo: Toby Farrow