First review of #manandboy from @broadwaybaby
By Laura Pujos
Man And Boy is a perfectly poetic way to punctuate an otherwise hectic day at the Fringe. The premise of the show is that a “middle-aged English fat bloke” called Robert Cole reads out a selection of poems from his newly published collection London Poems, joined by his nephew Ed, and later in the run, his son Maurice.
Understated and unusual, Man And Boy achieved a stillness and tranquility in the room that is probably hard to find elsewhere at the festival.
The poems are divided into three sections, Family, Form and Fate, separated by brief musical interludes, with Ed on keyboard. The set-up is beautifully simple. The two men sit in front of you, void of a stage, while a table of poetry books and family photos construct their set. The small space heightens the intimacy as Cole shares with the audience snippets of his life. There’s something so calming, amongst the bustle of the Fringe, about just sitting and listening for 50 minutes, letting his words wash over you.
The poetry collection itself is “grounded in geography”, the people and experiences that Cole connects with and a, somewhat surprisingly green, London landscape. Despite a background in finance, Cole writes not about the city grind but uses the natural world as a springboard for thinking about the human journey, with both its wonders and sadness, and reflecting tenderly on family.
Cole’s writing displays influences including Philip Larkin, and employs a variety of technically challenging forms such as the sestina and the villanelle, but is unpretentious and absolutely not limited to poetry fans. One could go away and plumb the poems’ depths at greater length, but they also have an immediately aesthetic quality. Cole’s straightforward, conversational style of expression and attention to sound patterning work well in spoken word performance, enhanced by the musical element of the reading.