Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Underbelly George Square, Edinburgh until Sun 30 Aug @ 13:15

Steve Larkin is a well respected poet and spoken word performer. In 2004 he won the International Poetry Slam and he is a presenter at the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam. Tes is Steve Larkin’s re-imagining of the book Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (except with a spoken word/poetry slam twist).

The re-imagined story begins in modern day Newcastle where a teenage boy (Jess Byron) is wrongly charged with a sexual assault and finds himself in prison. The story then takes a leap forward in time where Jess has left prison, moved to Leeds and changed his name to Tes (short for Terry). Tes has taken up writing poetry and attends poetry slams and open-mics across Leeds. He then finds himself in love before his past comes back to haunt him.

Even though the story of Tes follows a well known narrative it does feel very predictable. Larkin does his best to move the story forward with enthusiasm and vigour until the tragic ending. He embodies several characters throughout the performance and is a very accomplished and engaging performer. Tes does come over as a frustrating performance at times. He imagines the character of Tes as a performance poet and spends a long time describing poetry slams and the Glastonbury Festival to the audience. This element of the show lingers a bit too long and gets in the way of the story.

Larkin is a great performer and an extremely talented poet. He definitely has the ability to write and present an engaging spoken word show, however Tes does not quite capture his ability and passion.