Live Review: Hollie McNish and Victoria McNulty


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Òran Mór, 10/10/18

“As the real life transformers

I’m saying Megatron ain’t shit

Compared to female bodies

To prepare to grow and feed a kid”

Hollie McNish opens her gig with a poem inspired by a date with her ex to see the new Transformers film, 2 years and 6 months after she had given birth to their child; the poem recounts the transformation which her body has endured during “this Optimus of Primes”. The Venue at Òran Mór is an invitingly spacious yet cosy home to nights of live music, theatre, and on 10th October, a night of poetry with Hollie McNish, supported by Victoria McNulty. Both poets perform a diverse range of pieces, topics spanning from immigration, love, pregnancy, to adolescent enlightenment on “yanking”.  

I attended this event in anticipation of seeing Hollie perform some of her outstanding poetry, and some extracts from her tremendously honest book Nobody Told Me. However what I did not expect was to be utterly blown away by the performances from the support act. Victoria McNulty is a spoken word artist hailing from Glasgow and has recently performed at Electric Fields festival, as well as releasing a collection of violently plaintive and arrestingly exquisite poetry, Confessionals. It is rare for a support act to command the stage as captivatingly as she did, holding a champagne flute in one hand, and the audience in her other. McNulty performs poems about domestic violence statistics in Scotland, about the grief and longing we feel for a lost grandparent, and many more enthralling topics; however, the poem that truly moved me was one about the contradictory attitudes of Scots towards immigration, specifically the massive flux of Irish immigrants in Glasgow. She reads,

When my family arrived in Scotland they didn’t flee famine, but civil war

Their gaeltacht was already black with An Gorta Mór

Their names had became warning signs on windows

No work or trade gave way to forgotten face or altered names

Just tags, tarrier, terrorist, and taig.

After being totally engulfed in McNulty’s charm, the audience finally get to see the endearing Hollie McNish come on to the stage, accompanied by a batch of books struggling to stay in her small arms. McNish talks openly about her pregnancy and early years as a mother, reading from Nobody Told Me and plainly recounting her encounters with medical professionals, specifically one meeting with a nurse 6 ¼ months after giving birth – the nurse said,

“You’re ok to have sex again.”

“And I thought, ‘Fuck you.’”

McNish then reads from her newest release, Plum – she candidly tells the audience, “some critics have speculated that I named this collection ‘Plum’ because plums can be symbols for the female reproductive organ… but I just really like eating plums.” She reads beautifully relatable poems about her jobs as a teenager, from working in Boots to working in a fast food restaurant, and then time travels from adolescence to motherhood, reading a poem inspired by David Cameron, and how his presence in the news once made her feel like a good mother – she explains that her and her 5 year old daughter read the news together over breakfast one morning:

“I read you the papers again today

Told you how some say the prime minister

The conservative one? You ask

 

  • I nod

 

Put his knob

 

  • I say willy, of course

 

Into a dead pig’s mouth

When he was younger”

The way in which both poets manage to evoke such stark emotions in the audience of the sold out Òran Mór is indicative of the power of spoken word – whether it be by sharing the human experiences of grief or guilt, or tapping into the ability to command a room with comedy. Both artists perform confidently and keep themselves, and the audience, at ease throughout the show. The audience was compiled of a range of people, most noticeably different by a diversity of age, and each poet is so skilled in their work that they are able to connect with each person in the room, sometimes speaking as mothers, sometimes speaking as children, sometimes speaking as women, and sometimes just speaking as flawed individuals with truly brilliant talents.

[Ellen Magee – @mondaymagee]

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