Having been a lifelong fan of the work of Carol Ann Duffy there’s a certain excitement in the air at seeing her at the Edinburgh Book Festival, though the Scottish weather decides to add its own contribution to the night and supplies a biblical deluge hammering down on the Festival’s theatre-tent roof as Duffy takes to the stage.
The show starts quietly and at first, Duffy seems subdued, yet, as she gets into her stride with her first poem we’re aware of a dull spark that’s been well hidden making itself known, a sly wit that won’t be suppressed, a droll sense of humour that bubbles furiously under the surface and erupts in acidic asides to the delight of her – sadly – very mature audience. However, the former poet laureate’s performance is measured and the work well-chosen, and she reads a section of poems ranging from her classic and much-loved The World’s Wife to her most recent and more political work, Sincerity; and the audience revel in their old favourites – particularly apparent when she reads her classic Mrs Faustus poem from The World’s Wife – and listen attentively to the newer and less familiar work.
Continuing their successful fourteen-year-run together, Duffy is accompanied this evening by the Edinburgh musician and actor, John Sampson, who performs various pieces on a series of unusual medieval brass and woodwind instruments, and whose understated humour is a great compliment to Duffy’s verse, and his music is performed to pin-drop silence in a rapt house with only the drumming of the rain for accompaniment.
The conclusion of the performance when poet and musician perform together and Sampson accompanies Duffy’s vocal is quite mind-blowing and make a fitting end to an exceedingly entertaining evening which is well-worth getting soaked for!