A chorus of rattling milk bottles reverberates around the Soho basement where we're cocooned for the night. It is 11.40pm, we are a bottle of house wine deep and already the floor is chanting 'OLD BASTARD' at Martin Galton, the first act of the night.
Not because he's an old bastard but because it's a refrain the audience shouts in reply to his oneliners such as: 'if you think modern life is shit.' and 'if you think the latest Apple tablet is a fruit-based vitamin pill'. It's rowdy and exciting— like going to your first political rally and being one of the placard-wavers, instead of standing on the sidelines. That's one of the things that sets this poetry night apart — it's participatory, not exclusionary. You don't have to have the entire works of Shakespeare in your head to get it. But there is a common language, mainly Trump = bad. Feminism = good. If you speak that language then you've found your tribe.
The night moves from the shouty, self-deprecating humour of Galton to the misleadingly deadpan delivery of Rob Auton, who has the whole room screeching 'MAROON' before casually offering up simple yet profound gems like: 'the number one reason for why people are living is because they were born and they haven't died yet'. Auton speaks like he's retained a childlike awe at the world: 'We have to make the most of the bits we get to get to see,' he says, 'catch it in our thought nets.' Soon after this poem, it's not thoughts but balloons we must catch as Balloon from the Back of the Room gets underway. It's this silliness punctuated by moments of seriousness which makes Bang Said The Gun such a hoot.
But it's Salena Godden (recently shortlisted for the Ted Hughes award and described by Kerrang as 'everything the Daily Mail is terrified of') who steals the most whoops and shakes. From fanny burps to beetroot chutney period blood, no topic is too taboo for Godden's mesmerising guttural musings. When she speaks about 'taxable blood', 'blood that disgusts us the most' in feminist anthem Red and all the 'CAN'T'S' who Can't Be Bovvered, we raise our pasta-filled milk bottle totems and shake them with wild abandon, (because she is brilliant and because that's what a midnight poetry sesh in the middle of Soho will do to you).
Back in 2016, host Dan Cockrill told us his biggest challenge in relocating from Borough's intimate space upstairs at the Roebuck would be "keeping up our pub night atmosphere in a theatre". Yes, the Soho Theatre might have glossed up their posters and got their health and safety checklists out but judging by this sell-out show, the poetry-hating, milk bottle-shaking punters will keep coming. Bang Said The Gun offers up poems without the posturing and pretension, and there aren't many spoken word nights that'll leave your notebook full of hurriedly scrawled quotes and your jaw aching with laughter. In fact, there might only be this one and after 20 or so years, it's still a real banger.
Keep an eye on the website for upcoming gigs.