Zanzibar Cats

Zanzibar Cats
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)
3 stars ***

IT’S NOT SO MUCH A SHOW as a straightforward poetry recital, this performance by Roy Hutchins of poems by the famous and eccentric British counter-culture genius, Heathcote Williams. As performance poetry goes, though, this is classy stuff, ranging fluently across Williams’s key obsessions with absurdity and alienation in our rampant consumer society, and with the irreparable damage we do to the environment in our determination to grab the latest material goods.

The title therefore comes from a poem in which Williams attacks intercontinental air travel, and charges us not to fly all the way to Zanzibar just so we can count the cats there; there’s another sequence in which Williams repeatedly refuses to travel to the United States, by plane, ship, or any other means. The writing is often blazingly powerful, and Hutchins’s performance is unfailingly elegant, with a fine steely radicalism that reminds us of how much our world now needs the words and presence of this bold generation, who once had the courage to dream of a whole new world beyond materialism and war, and whose vision now begins to look like our last chance of a possible future.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August
p. 315


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