Arts Review: Ships in the Night #13 – Paper Mountain, Perth (19.05.16)

Ships in the Night is Perth’s bi-monthly celebration of words and music, bringing together and showcasing new writers and bands. Last week’s event was the first since a successful outing at the Perth Fringe World. Instalment #13 was a certainly a mixed affair. Ultimately I found it to be disappointing and a little disorganised – though there were some moments of quality, mostly from the headliners. It felt a touch too cliquey at times as well – with a few too many in jokes and came close to being a bit of a Shit Narnia love in.

New Nausea, the solo project of Shit Narnia’s Albert Pritchard, started off the evening’s proceedings, easing the assembled crowd into the evening gently with some wistful and melancholic folk. Despite the gripes mentioned above I enjoyed the set, Pritchard has got the wounded singer-songwriter thing down pat – ethereal vocals and all. My only real issue was that at times the vocal was a bit too quiet to quite make out the lyrics.

Unfortunately it all went a bit off the rails to me from there for a little while. The MC for the evening Alyce Wilson quite frankly seemed like she didn’t want to be there (maybe that’s just her style?), and seemed a bit under prepared (researching your readers/headliners should probably extend beyond reading their social media bios).

Though nothing would compare to the lack of preparation undertaken by the first reader Ciocia Ola (a pseudonym) who put more effort into her fictional biography than coming up with anything to present to the audience. In the run up to the event she apparently cancelled, recommitted, and cancelled multiple times – and given that she used her allotted time to run through some printed notes ostensibly about how she’s terrible at preparing for things, her no show wouldn’t have been a great loss.

Axel Carrington gave us his review of a Shit Narnia show, and then a poem/song inspired by a Shit Narnia song, which given that two members of the band were taking part in the evening, and presumably the other two where there too, seemed quite frankly overkill.

The third of the evening’s readers Elizabeth Lewis presented a selection of her poetry. The pieces often quite short were well received, and played with metaphorical language quite well. I wasn’t blown away by her delivery, but ultimately it was different enough from the other speakers that they stood out a little clearer.

Now for all my complaining about the ubiquitousness of Shit Narnia, I enjoyed Shit Narnia’s frontman Hugh Manning’s spoken word offering. There was a real sense of place and a clear voice in much of the work he presented – it was distinctly and unabashedly Australian and unashamedly gritty and “adult”.

Golden String provided the evening’s second set of tunes and was one of the highlights. Though usually performing as a duo, Golden String was for this event a solo affair, with Mai Barnes providing keys, vocals and improvised violin parts (via keyboard) with the aid of a looping pedal. With her penchant for self-deprecation Barnes won the audience over quickly, and put on a wonderful performance – she has a lovely vocal and I for one look forward to hearing more from Golden String.

The first of the evening’s two headliners was RTRfm’s Tristan Fidler, who also creates xines and comics, whilst also hosting a chat show. It became pretty clear that the piece that Fidler had put together for the evening was perhaps a bit too ambitious for the allotted time frame. Needing to the fit two parts of the story and an epilogue into the short time frame meant that much of the story was delivered at breakneck speed. What I did manage to catch, however, proved to be funny and a pointed critique of company bureaucracy with more than a few pop culture references along the way.

Laurie Steed was the final presenter of the main part of the evening, and the short story he presented was by far and away the best work of the evening. Taken from a linked short story collection that he is currently working on, the story focused on the experiences of a young boy was at times funny, charming and emotional. Throughout the story you really got a strong sense of the characters voice – the childlike innocence of the young boy was clear, his excitement and his confusion at the silence of his siblings and the breakdown of his family. Steed left me wanting more, I want to know more about this family, and am now looking forward to the eventual release of the entire collection.

Despite my overall disappointment with the evening on the whole, I did take away some highlights – Steed’s short story and the performance from Golden String being the two distinct ones right now. Part of the disappointment stems from the fact that the Perth literary community is quite strong and diverse, which for me wasn’t reflected on this particular night. Maybe next time.

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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