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John Agard Performed Roll Over Atlantic for Nottingham's Festival of Literature

15 November 16 words: Stacey Wylie

Day two of the Festival of Literature saw the eccentric and charismatic John Agard perform his Roll Over Atlantic show...

Day two of the festival saw Jewish and Muslim writers explore the complexities of identity and the Words for Walls launch, a new scheme which will see poems by local writers displayed on public transport and in public spaces across the city of Nottingham. But my heart was set firmly on seeing John Agard, the Afro-Guyanese playwright, poet and children's writer, who was selected for the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012.  

Pineapples, mosquito goggles and pink trolley bags. The three don’t usually go together, but Agard makes them fit in possibly the quirkiest reconstruction of Columbus’ New World Enterprise to date. You expect a poetry reading, you get a poetry singing, chanting, dancing one-man show.

The untrained ear may think ‘WHAT has this got to do with Columbus?’. Nonetheless, the show gets the message across. As Caribbean-British, Agard shows the cruelty and dishonest ways of the usually celebrated explorer in a funny way. Whether it be the booming voice of the Atlantic, the Frank Sinatra parody or the mosquito dance performed by Agard himself, your perspective on colonisation is bound to change as you realise something is not quite what it seems.

In all seriousness, Agard’s poetry is excellent. With satisfying rhyme, beautiful imagery and a strong political message, anybody concerned with post-colonialism, history, or society in general should see Roll Over Atlantic. His satirised song of Syphilis may give you a laugh, but it also opens up some important debates about treatment of colonies and our misconceptions that still exist today.

Importantly, Agard’s work makes literature as accessible as possible. If regular poetry nights intimidate you, rest assured that with this particular act, there is something for everybody. If you are a music lover, comedian or just enjoy the stage, you’re bound to appreciate Agard’s work just as much as any literature lover.

John Agard's Roll Over Atlantic was performed on Wednesday 9 November 2016 at Nottingham Arts Theatre as part of the Festival of Literature.

Festival of Literature website

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