Review – Liz Lochhead: Apple Says Aaah – and Other Poems, Pommes and People

Aug 13 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    All-round pleasure

Liz Lochhead

The Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
Thurs 1– Sun 25 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

There are many fine writers who cannot do justice to their own material in performance, let alone impressing when reading the works of others. Liz Lochhead, as always, is an exception. Poems, monologues, ‘songs without music’ and even poems with music all feature in a thoroughly entertaining hour.

Lochhead seems so at ease in front of an audience that it is not easy to believe her when she says she never had any thought of performing her monologues on stage herself when she started writing them 40 years ago.

It has become almost a cliché of Scottish cultural life that the Makar produces enough poetry and drama for the whole country; that she reveals here that she has also recently returned to painting and had work exhibited must be infuriating for anyone who cannot succeed in even one artform.

It would be impossible to dislike her, however; her winning presence sees to that. There is also her generosity, including as she does alongside her own poetry the works of departed friends Edwin Morgan and Adrian Mitchell, whose Back In The Playground Blues provides a particular highlight.

In a beautifully varied performance, there is an excellent section devoted to Burns featuring a tremendous reply to To A Mouse and an appearance of the ‘Nettie Abernethy’ monologue which recently led to the play Mortal Memories. Lochhead’s relaxed demeanour and evident rapport with the audience are highlighted by her gentle chiding of their efforts at the one required piece of audience participation.

Perfectly realised

It is the climax of the show that provides the real surprise. Saxophonist Steve Kettley is summoned on stage, with Lochhead announcing their intention to revive the jazz poetry of the 1950s. Horrified images of a finger-clicking Makar in beret and false goatee soon give way to the more practical consideration that her words will be drowned out.

What follows, however, is perfectly realised. The simple device of having Kettley play the chorus of Michael Marra’s Just Like Another Rolling Stone behind Optimistic Sound, Lochhead’s tribute to that much-missed songwriter, has a great emotional pull.

The closing piece, Old Vinyl, where Kettley cleverly interpolates scraps of the artists mentioned into this nostalgic, rhythmic encomium to popular music, suggests there could be a great deal of mileage in this collaboration.

This not-quite-one-woman show may not be the most apparently dynamic hour on the Fringe, but would be hard to beat for sheer enjoyment.

Running time 1 hr
Run ends Mon 26 August 2012
Daily (not Mon 12) 12.15 pm
Venue 20, The Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR
Tickets from


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