John Hegley: Peace, Love and Potatoes (Assembly Checkpoint, 14.30)

Having been gracing stage, screen, and page for over thirty years now, John Hegley has almost became a piece of the Edinburgh furniture, and that’s no bad thing. Here the treble threat of poet, comic, and musician reads selections from his various collections of poetry, as well as adding in a handful of new pieces, and it makes for a very pleasantly enjoyable afternoon.

He jokes early on in this hour that there is only one joke, and whilst there may not be a massive number of proper gut busters, this isn’t entirely accurate as the performance constantly ticks along with a number of Radio 4 worthy chuckles. Poems on the guillemot, his French grandmother’s advice to his younger self, and the experiences of a childhood growing up in Luton all raise a smile, and the writing and rhythm are always on point, showing why he is such a national Literary treasure.

Adding to the experience on the afternoon I was in were his good-natured battles with the heckles of a baby, taking advantage of the babes in arms policy, whose pleased gurgles were very much in keeping with that of the rest of us, even if sometimes at inopportune moments. Hegley manages, however, to deal with these and incorporate them in utterly charming fashion, and it adds to the comfortable atmosphere, almost as if at a family gathering as opposed to a poetry reading.

That being said, there are some moments that drag slightly, a number of audience participation moments that don’t quite work, or go on just a little bit too long for a somewhat less than vocal audience, but it never diminishes the experience. Any awkwardness caused by these portions are quickly disseminated by the next piece, and the hour ends on a surprisingly emotional note, the final poem ending on a quite sincere turn as opposed to the laugh we have come to expect from Hegley, but it doesn’t feel out of place. This is just a very pleasant way to spend an hour.

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Scott Redmond

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