It’s the right time to be in character as a spoken word “artiste” – the real things are on a crest of popularity, but not quite ubiquitous enough to be a lame target. Susan Harrison‘s comedy take on the species is Jennie Benton-Smith, an androgynous teenage nerd from Tunbridge Wells, in thrall to Kate Tempest, in love with her teacher and aiming to “spit dope rhymes” that are “well nang”.
Rapping aside, there’s a really sweet story here, between Jennie and her late-arriving sidekick Auburn Joe. We get a sense of it in their fidgety phone conversations, anticipation which is nicely fulfilled when he does turn up, and the relationship builds to a fitting ending. Harrison as Jennie uses the room well too, weaving the tech guy into the story, using the corridor outside cleverly, finding just the right ways to bring audience members into a scripted piece.
Her performance pieces are actually only vaguely parody. Most are just comedy songs, poking fun at the character’s teenage pretensions, rather than pricking the bubble of spoken word performers per se. They’re catchy – the sample from her best things/worst things song will ring round your head – but fun, rather than funny.
Jennie Burton Wordsmith is gentle, put-a-smile-on-your-face entertainment (much like Countdown which it frequently references) and will appeal to anyone who recognises the geeky kid at school tropes or the literary pretensions.