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An Occurrent Glow production
in association with
South Bank Poetry
The London Bridge Festival 2009


Poem Reincarnating Theatre: Incisions and Excavations at the Old Operating Theatre

Artistic Director: Sara Nesbitt


Producer: Em Hickman


Designer: Rebecca Channon


July 17 – 19 2009








A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Excavating the human condition with a beautiful turn of phrase, making physical and emotional incisions, some gentle and playful, some sharp and deep; this is an evening of verse by poets responding to a particular space. But it is no ordinary poetry reading.

Seated in the evocative space of the 19th century Old Operating Theatre, a small round room with high wooden circular benches surrounding a well where once women were operated on, we are addressed by a hapless amoeba, and so the poetic journey begins.

As we move on through the spaces of the theatre and the Herb Garret we are given a guided tour, an exposition of the properties of willow bark, meadowsweet and marshmallow, and then, suddenly, we are in the midst of another poem, Open Heart Surgery (Niall O’Sullivan) and a tormented heart is being strung out before us, lashed to the wooden pillars with harsh words, the time-honoured remedies that surround us useless against this affliction of passion and despair.

And then from among us, more poets and performers emerge (are we observers or the observed?) Houdini dies in Houdini as Remembered by a Hack (Bryan Baker),a young woman tries to seduce her young man in Cut Short in Equinox No. 19 (Sara Nesbitt). The performers seem oblivious of us, until a whispered phrase, a summoning gesture, a piercing look jolts us right into it. We follow more poems and their makers and performers and then we are back where we started, this time in an origami bandage class, making teabags and curtains, sitting in a theatre of the absurd.

This is a celebration of poetry in an intensely intimate way, creating an intriguing tension within a space that is strangely distancing; artefacts, performers, observers, words, all on display. This visceral cross-genre experience is a surprisingly enjoyable way of showcasing the potency of poetry, and engaging people in the offerings of this interesting and unusual space.

It’s a wonderful idea, and is very well executed by the five poets, three directors, twelve performers, and the visual artist and composer making up this newly formed company.

Let’s hope that this is just the first of many such successful experiments in the interface between poetry, history and performance in constructed spaces.





The Old Operating Theatre
9a St. Thomas St.
Southwark, London

Tel: 020 7188 2679

Friday 17th July (7pm), Saturday 18th July (5pm), Sunday 19th July (2pm, 5pm)
(Included was a copy of South Bank Poetry magazine (issue three), with 40 poems)






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