Ben Mellor and Dan Steele are having a busy and successful Edinburgh Fringe. Last year they previewed an experimental poetry/music/spoken word show called Anthropoetry (reviewed here in 2012). In the past 12 months they have honed this show, took it on tour and now have returned the finished piece to the Edinburgh Fringe. In addition the talented pair have decided to do a Free Fringe show of experimental poetry, spoken word, storytelling and music. The result is Shaggy Doggrel and it is an enjoyable and intriguing experience.
Mellor and Steele take to the stage and inform the audience that first section of the show will involve some old work that is in need of a re-spin. Mellor recites some work from his debut book Light Made Solid. We hear re-workings of poems which are recited with passion and effortless ease. The words are visceral and engaging and all this is soundtracked by the virtuoso instrumentations from Dan Steele. The poem ‘The Television Will Not Be Revolutionised’ is very much a standout and has all the intelligence and integrity of the Gil Scot Heron track it clearly references.
Mellor and Steele confusingly leave the stage only to return wearing furry dog suits. Understandably the tone of the performance changes and we are clearly experiencing the experimental part of the set. Here the audience is told a story involving a talking dog, an animate statue, some footballers wife’s and a group of evil gangsters. The story weaves itself together as a series of sketches which are linked in theme and content. The overriding theme appears to be a longing for answers and how having an inquisitive mind can take you on a journey. Again this is soundtracked by Dan Steele who layers sounds and instruments creating a fantastic soundscape that underlines the humour and dark undertones of the story.
Shaggy Doggrel was a work in progress and hopefully Mellor and Steel will be back at next years Edinburgh Fringe to present the final piece. Mellor is an excellent storyteller and an engaging stage presence. The dynamic he has on stage with Dan Steele made the performance feel neither Shaggy nor Doggrel, despite the dog suits. Shaggy Doggrel was a fine piece of storytelling from one of the most talented duo’s in spoken word.
Until the 24 August
17.30 – 18.30
Fingers Piano Bar
61a Frederick Street