Arts Review: Hollie McNish

Òran Mór, 4th October

Presented as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. 

Hollie McNish is a performer of sheer intelligence, wit and talent. Reading-born McNish has been writing a poem a day since the age of seven and is now an internationally-acclaimed artist who writes and performs poetry full-time.

The thing separating McNish from other ultra-talented poets is her ability to reach out to an audience who may feel alienated from the intricate world of verse. She has adopted an innovative approach to presenting and broadcasting her work, using namely cameras and social media, and it works brilliantly. She’s fresh, contemporary and uses rhythm, unlike that of Kate Tempest, as she talks about the things that matter to everyone in today’s world.

McNish is renowned for her poems about feminism and anti-racism and that was indeed the theme of Saturday’s performance. Casually presenting herself onstage, she begins with Touch, a poem about how the cyber world is corrupting our ability to communicate physically, with affection. Her second reading dives straight into the more serious issues with Hate, about a trio of schoolboys who stab each other simultaneously because of prejudices due to racism and homophobia. McNish achieves sheer silence for the closing lines of her poem after appalling the audience to speechlessness by reminding them: “As blood, blades, generalisations and false claims lay in circles of child-old corpses still on the pavement. Where every day, everywhere, sees the same, bloody fate. Hate will ever only breed hate.”

With some added humour, her angry feminist voice is just as momentous. After reading her comical rap-rant, For One Day, which prompts us to depict the world with reverse gender roles for a day and her utterly hilarious Eat My Fig, a commentary of Flo-Rida’s Whistle, remarking on all the stupid misogyny throughout. “As the climax comes… he sings ‘can you blow my whistle.’ A whistle? A tiny thing. And I can’t help but laugh. A whistle, a small shiny thing which no one needs to learn ‘cause it’s a pretty easy blow. So I don’t think he needs to show us girls or start off really slow.”

After an hour hearing everything from diary entries on pregnancy and motherhood; rejecting London and glittery cupcakes; bad mathematics and immigration; grandmothers and cousins and being turned on by bricks, there are many sentiments in the air. The most prominent one among us all, however, men and women alike, is to down the rest of our beers, buy her album and listen to it while going out and smashing the hell out of inequality.

[Sarinah O’Donoghue – @notmiserable_]

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