Edinburgh Fringe Review: Govanhell (4 stars)

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Anna Crow

Welcome to Govanhell.  In this debut spoken word solo show as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, young Glasgow-based poet Liam McCormick introduces us to a district of Glasgow that fell 2000 miles into the Earth’s mantle sometime in the late 20th century.  Forget polite handshakes and how-do-you-dos, this introduction is one that will challenge, provoke and inspire as we are plunged into the depths of a struggle both historic and ongoing against dark forces including poverty, bigotry, sexism and disillusion, domestic abusers, minotaur-like homogenous entities of lower level civil servants, and possibly the worst villain of all – post-industrial capitalism.

This journey may not be one for the faint-hearted but it is certainly one worth taking.  A varied range of characters will be encountered along the way aside from the host himself, including the girl who tried to win the £50 prize in the Govanhill Library summer reading contest despite her limited English ability, ‘eccyed Alec’ who may try to tell you that those red Mortal Kombat pills weren’t that bad actually, and William Dixon, founder of the metalworks which became commonly known as Dixon’s Blazes, and whose influence, along with that of his family, for better or worse played a large role in shaping the Govanhill we now see today.

Liam is a compelling performer with a level of raw energy and intensity matched by few that I’ve encountered on the current Scottish poetry and spoken word scene.  He was the winner of the 2015 New Materials Poetry Slam, earning a rightful place in the Scottish Slam Championships next year.  He displays a rare talent in the structuring and cadence of each poem and indeed, that of the show itself – in which a cohesive and interlinking narrative is formed.  Much that is thought-provoking and challenging and no shortage of dark humour are found here in a wide range of circumstances from the rage or paranoia-inducing to the mundane, and from the historical to the present day.

This show is not one for the political correctness brigade or any who may get outraged by a drug reference or use of the word ‘c**t’, often while being happy to turn a blind eye to social problems and deeply-ingrained injustice in society.  It is all the better for it.  Expect an uncensored visit into the depths of a frequently maligned area of Glasgow, but one in which hope may still be found in forms such as a growing and active arts movement, pro-active measures to tackle problems within the area such as the high domestic violence rate, and a strong sense of community in general.  The history of Govanhill in terms of social change, its industrialisation and the subsequent growth of varied ethnic minority communities in the area, to the extent it has been termed ‘Glasgow’s Ellis Island’, and issues such as gender inequality and the stigmatisation of groups such as the unemployed are explored with a striking level of insight.

This reviewer highly recommends a trip to Govanhell if you dare.  4 stars.

Govanhell is on daily until 30th August, 3:15-4:05pm at George Next Door Space M (venue 430), 9 George IV Bridge as part of PBH’s Free Fringe 2015.  More details here: http://freefringe.org.uk/edinburgh-fringe-festival/govanhell/2015-08-16/

Find out more about Liam McCormick and any upcoming performances here: https://www.facebook.com/liammccormickpoetry

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