It’s time to forgive Carol Ann Duffy for those school lessons where we thumped our heads on the desk, forced to learn her work. Helping us do this, is frequent collaborator John Sampson, who has been performing with Duffy for over a decade.
Her choice of work comes chiefly from two texts, her most recent release Sincerity and her post-modern book The World’s Wife. The latter contains a series of unheard female perspectives of infamous tales. Mrs Faust a particular highlight for its self-loathing, uncompromising satire and fierce feminism.
Sincerity, the recent publication, brings a haunting essence to spoken word, turning our attention towards Chinese labour forces and the Hillsborough Disaster. Her command of spoken word, mobilising emotional responses more than any written, is compelling.
Had this performance been a recital of Duffy’s work, perhaps without Sampson’s musical accompaniment, this would have made a more enjoyable show. The broken format, however, where each delivers a set of their artistic talents, disrupts the flow. Perhaps they were concerned an hour of the unremitting verse would put people off? An odd notion if this is the case.
Individually, there is merit in what both brings to the performance. Their offcut commentary with one another, Duffy’s dry scowls at Sampson’s baroque minstrel attitude, is charming to watch. He japes around, his clowning cannot besmirch the immense control he has over a variety of instruments, from crumhorn to a recorder and a Hulusi.
This is an excellent opportunity to hear the former Poet Laureate, who took the position as no other woman had previously held the post. Let’s hope we don’t wait another 378 years for another female Laureate. Beyond simple words of melody, there’s an elegance to the two’s conversation and nature. Offering fragments, and an examination of Duffy’s work, delivering insight to some of the United Kingdom’s exemplary literature.