Alice Oswald's poetry will need no introduction to those who keep in touch with the contemporary scene. She had two collections - one a commission, the other a collaboration - published by Faber in 2009, adding to her previous three collections and the two anthologies which she has edited.
Her poem for several voices 'Mrs Eaves phones her sister' closes the pamphlet and closed last night's performance, but on this occasion she was one of a company of four, each making significant contributions to a performance that combined theatre, music and verse - sometimes in combination. That piece brought the four of them together and in its weaving of character and tongue, we were left with the strangeness of an English village in winter, its people as unpredictable as the weather.
The drama studio at the Phoenix Arts Centre is an intimate space of forty seats - sold out in advance - that would benefit from more sympathetic lighting. What the evening gave practitioners - and aficionados - of all the genres featured was an example of how they can be combined to the enrichment of each other. Although featuring two poets, promoted as an evening of poetry, and launching a pamphlet of verse, it was perhaps that of the three art forms that was least dominant on the night, made-up for by subsequent reading on the page. Poetry is a quieter art form and while I'm the first to criticise extended commentary on poems in performance and admire brevity of both contextual and biographical introduction, something was needed to give them the prominence the writing deserved when up against the more immediate dramatic and musical forms.
That said, 'The Attention Seekers' have devised a format with legs - eight of them - that deserves wider exposure and a larger audience. With little refinement, they have a show that could tour arts centres and, with the right promotion, attract a paying crowd without diluting artistic intent. Considerable effort clearly went into preparing this performance and I hope it is one of many, a memory to repeat and not just cherish. For those organising literature festivals, it would make a fine revue to breakup the procession of talking heads with an hour or so that manages to be both entertaining and accomplished, its heterogeneity a welcome antidote to more homogeneous formats, but its content consistently of the highest quality.