oet Laureate Telia Nevile: While I’m Away

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

In many ways, Telia Nevile’s While I’m Away is modest in its ambition. With a running time of just over 30 minutes in an early evening slot, a proud but fragile poet reads a selection of verses about stumbling towards love as a selection of travel slides, doused in the orange-brown tinge of Seventies photography, are projected onto the screen behind her.

But the unassuming presentation is perfectly judged; with the mood created by this charismatically diffident performer an appealing mix of the romantic and the pragmatic, as first crushes are remembered, and older hearts nursed better.

Titles such as This Temple of Love is a Renovator’s Dream, I Built You a Monument Because You Always Attracted the Birds or the haiku Love Is A Headcold In The Winter Of My Existence demonstrate the wry humour of her work.

Her words are well-chosen – the least you can expect from a poet, I guess – and frequently witty, though maximising the laughs-per-minute is never the aim of the otherworldly Nevile.

The travel motif lends a thread to otherwise tenuously linked verses, though the segments between the poems are both carefully written and oddly stilted, like an awkward teen nervously giving their ‘show and tell’ talk. The low-key presentation is given a lift by such minor but cute touches as a tiny mirrorball, or audience participation to evoke the spirit of the African savannah, but the energy is always kept in check.

It’s a charming morsel, little more but certainly no less, that might be best seen as a delicate appetiser to a night of more substantial comedy.

Review date: 14 Apr 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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