A LOVELY WORD
- Jade Anouka
The Everyman’s monthly spoken word night makes its way online for this year’s Homotopia Festival, headlined by JADE ANOUKA, actor, poet, playwright, director, one-time TED-talker and inspirational 21st Century Renaissance woman. Even with the lack of tangible audience, the reading and open mic loses none of the casual-but-excited feel out of the cosy bistro setting.
As we wait for Anouka’s arrival, co-host LYNDSAY PRICE kicks off the reading with her poem, Summoning Spell for my Early-Noughties Teenage Self – a nostalgic re-conjuring of the best of the Noughties in the form of a Tamagotchi-carrying witch, complete with Groovy Chick lockable diary and a cauldron of Beany Babies.
Our headliner’s own witch is of a different vibe. This year Anouka joined the His Dark Materials cast as the badass witch-queen Ruta Skodi alongside 2019’s heartthrob-of-the-year Andrew Scott. The role is the next step in a promising though already fruitful career that has already found time to feature in shows like Chewing Gum, Cleaning Up, and Turn Up Charlie, as well a few helpings of theatre and radio roles.
As Price is wrapping up, a newcomer pops up in my gallery view. Unassuming in a lilac hoodie, Anouka’s warm personability is immediately at odds with the image of the star I was expecting, something like an ego propped up by a healthy acting resumé, cold-faced and impatient. There is none of that.
After some gracious preliminaries she begins to read, impassioned, metred, sold on the truth of her own words. I soon realise how wrong I had it: acting isn’t the end for Anouka, but a starting point, for poetry, for activism, for more and all art (true modern Renaissance woman behaviour). Who better to headline for the Homotopia event this year?
If I was to turn a naïve layman on to Anouka and her work, I’d start with her BBC commissioned short Her & Her. Filmed in lockdown, featuring her and her partner, musician and beatbox-champion Grace Savage, the film combines their talents brilliantly. Shot on her phone, there’s an energised creativity visible in its originality, comparable in an odd way to Spike Jonze-era Beastie Boys’ videos. Anouka wrote and directed the film, and it perfectly combines all elements of her multifaceted character, without ever closing the book of Jade Anouka. The short stands on the same intersection of Anouka’s performance tonight; between activism, drama, artistic license.
Though the headliner, Anouka is not tonight’s only highlight. After her last poem, Home, taken from Her & Her, and a short Q&A, the mic is opened up.
What follows are readings from the heart, broken up with short periods of silent applause from behind the muted microphones of the audience. Small flickers of smiles are suppressed as the poets perform, trying to keep undistracted from the applauding comments popping up on their screen from the other audience members. Some of the poems are funny, some serious, some intimate, others go deep into shallow thoughts. All different, in tone, in form, but all hitting home, because, like music, poetry has a nest in all of us. As Anouka said, it’s something that connects our hearts, regardless of how foreign the poet’s life is to yours.
This review was written as part of Bido Lito!’s Bylines programme – workshops for culture writers of the future. To find out more about Bylines join our mailing list. Bylines is supported by Arts Council England.