Overpriced Zeitgeist

Sat 4th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Megan Luesley

at 01:58 on 8th Aug 2018

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It’s difficult to assess and review stand-up poetry in the same way you do theatre. It’s a whole different beast – different style, communication, presentation. While theatre is about some kind of pretence or spectacle, poetry is about the character of the poet. And I like poetry. With all that said, however, Mike Took’s ‘Overpriced Zeitgeist’, dubbed as “vaguely anti-establishment poetry for the postmodern Bohemian” (all obviously easy labels to grapple with) still didn’t quite live up to whatever expectations I had.

Took is a charismatic, energetic performer, and his words are just as lively. Take his first poem, all about swearing and the catharsis that can come from it, in which he encouraged the (fairly small, fairly quiet) audience to join in and curse along with him. Despite the unencouraging response – me looking probably about as amused as a slab of marble – Took soldiered on and delivered each poem with passion and gusto. And there is some smart wordplay in it all too, suggesting some real writing talent.

The show is touted as a form of satire, and some moments of poetry did come close to this. But a lot of it felt about as subtle as Godzilla touting an AK-47. In one poem, British prime ministers are compared to Norse mythological figures, not in a sophisticated manner but with the audience being smacked around the face with images of Margaret Thatcher wading through the corpses of her enemies. I consider myself left-leaning, but it all felt a bit too heavy handed, more mocking these political figures than undermining them.

And this might just be me, a humble child of the information era, being brainwashed by all the big bad social media platforms, but while several of Took’s points felt valid, a lot of his discussion of modern media and technology felt like less of a satire and more of a rant. The problem is that a lot of what Took says, like issues of overpricing, advertising and corporate corruption, has been said before and said better. When approaching such well-worn topics, a different viewpoint or method of communication is necessary, otherwise it’s just the same stale old moaning you hear from your dad.

Humour is a very subjective thing. I didn’t so much as giggle at an entire poem about bodily excretion, or “Donald Trump fucking a chimpanzee” (it makes a bit of sense in context), but the row in front of me seemed to be having a great time. As I said, Took is a great showman, and an especially strong comic performer. His brand of comedy might have almost bored me, but maybe there are some postmodern Bohemians out there who’ll split their sides laughing. Otherwise, it’s a free show, so at least you can’t say it’s overpriced.

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Anna Marshall

at 08:33 on 8th Aug 2018

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It no doubt would give Mike Took great pleasure to see the trouble a reviewer has in slotting him into a genre. Mike’s show ‘Zeitgeist’ is formally a poetry recital, but informally includes a running commentary of his unfolding grievances and bugbears, with only brief interludes of poetry.

Mike’s central theme is one of frazzled despair; he introduces himself by exclaiming that, basically, everything is just too damn expensive these days. Yes, he’s against Trump: but he’d also dare to say something about the Starbucks on every street surrounding the Royal Mile, whilst handing out abusive pin badges and correcting your grammar. Much of his performance would fit in with the old-school cynics at the back of a local Labour meeting. That said, his poetry is packed with a soulful and wholehearted honesty that cannot be faked.

Mike’s poetry fleshes out some classic anti-establishment trains of thought, lending them momentum, wit and statistical support. I’ve heard the return to socialism is being supported mainly by the old who can remember before Thatcher, and the young who were brought into the world to live with the consequences. This is reflected in the audience of 'Zeitgeist', and Mike’s humour reflects the voice of those who still defend the 1970s. He’s not advertising himself as a political speaker, but if you want some anger and questioning of our political consensus, his is a voice worth hearing.

'Overpriced Zeitgeist' isn’t pretending to be anything more than it is: a vent of hot air escaping, in neat verse, from one man as he just can’t keep the lid on the growing flaws we are all encountering. For those who begin to tire of a Fringe overwhelmed by Oxbridge comedians with abstract, bourgeois and political but ‘safely liberal’ ideas, here’s a man whose poetry isn’t written to be instagrammed, and whose show certainly isn’t overpriced. He’s simply not chasing gold star gratification.

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