Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Recovery Songs - Michèle Beck and Ralph Dartford

Conrad Smith writes:
Michèle Beck was a starter in more senses than one. First, she was startlingly good, overcoming a few initial nerves to give us an accomplished performance. Second, she gave us a hearing for her first, as-yet unpublished, collection which shows she is a talented poet who will soon be discovered: tender and sharp, delicate and hard-eyed, sophisticated and colloquial. Third, she was an excellent prelude for the evening, creating just the right kind of mood.

Beckie Doyle writes:
Ralph Dartford and Michèle Beck
     Photo: Richard Wilcocks
The Hyde Park Book Club on any night of the week is a bustling café full of students and locals alike, with loud music and laughter occupying the space, but on Tuesday night, you could have heard a pin drop. Packed into the small room, listeners were utterly captivated by the beautiful lyricism and brutal honesty of Ralph Dartford’s Recovery Songs. Those (like me) that weren’t entirely sure what to expect were shocked and entertained in equal measures as Ralph spared no painful detail in telling the story of his drug addiction and recovery. His mode of expression takes the form of autobiographical storytelling seamlessly interjected with lyrical spoken word poetry, which only adds to his powerful command of the room.

Ralph has an amazing ability to make an audience entirely invested in his life and his story, interjecting heavy topics with satirical humour which makes the show both more painful and more powerful to watch. Yet Ralph wants no sympathy, as he makes very clear from the start. As the name suggests, Recovery Songs has a therapeutic quality and acts as part of Ralph’s recovery, as a kind of acceptance if you will. It is by no means a selfish endeavour however; Ralph collects donations from this show to enable him to perform in rehabs, to people in the dark place he found himself not too many years ago, perhaps in the hope that his story will help them in any small way, too.

Ralph explains that he learnt from a young age that his ability to entertain was his biggest attribute, which threw him into the world of theatre and ultimately into the world of drug addiction. Now, he uses that same ability to spread his story and uses performance as a cathartic practice, whilst treating listeners to his beautiful lyricism. As soon as he mentions that his first ‘addiction’ was soul music, a small smile can be seen around the room; it’s hardly surprising considering his poetic narratives and skilful construction of sentences that he grew up idolising James Brown. 

It is only as Ralph closes his show that the audience, myself included, realise how enraptured we have been for the last hour. Ralph’s brave honesty and raw emotion was such a refreshingly different take on poetry which was perfect for such an intimate setting, and was a perfection addition to the festival for those that attended.

LitFest is very grateful for help and support at this event from two Leeds University students, Ashley Phun and Becky Doyle.

Audience Comments

Michèle Beck) Amazing as always, exceptional performance. Thank you for sharing your recovery with audiences. Very inspiring. An honour to share the stage with you.

Venue was intimate and evening had a relaxed feel to it. One support act, then break, then headliner. Very honest and accessible literature.

Michèle Beck - great suite of poems, enjoyed the structure (one for sorrow etc) and the different "voices" - highlight for me was "Boy". Ralph Dartford - utterly brilliant weaving biography and poetry together. Dealt with raw and painfil themes through the grace of poetry.

Really fantastic event THANK YOU! Honest, touching, speaking from conflicted hearts, like humans to humans. This is what we all need more of.

This event was lovely - inspiringly different, cosy and comfortable yet something not quite experienced before and not quite what I expected. Magpie. The first poet was brilliant too - highly enjoyable and brilliant.

Wow! An intense confessional journey deeply poignant and moving but imbued with hope and dignity.

Very moving.

Michèle Beck - excellent, promising. Nice one!

Michèle's highly crafted and colloquial poems - very well-worked. Ralph - what a storyteller. So much integrity in his show and a real talent for building atmosphere.

Michèle Beck was outstanding. Really precise verse and love to hear the Donny accent. Ralph Dartford was beautiful and brutally honest about his life. GREAT EVENT.

Wow so very powerful.

Outstanding! Brave and bold and moving.

Hypnotic, informative, moving, convincing and enjoyable!

Michèle - Very strong new poet with her well-crafted poems that flew around the room. Ralph = Riveting interweaving of the truthful story of his life and poems taking us with him. Brilliant!

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