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Review: Rowan McCabe, North East Rising at Northern Stage

Performance poet Rowan McCabe has some stereotypes to dispel and some new heroes to celebrate in his debut show

Poet Rowan McCabe in North East Rising
Poet Rowan McCabe in North East Rising

You could say the Geordie stereotype of recent times is hard to budge but Rowan McCabe does it with admirable aplomb in his debut show.

An intimate venue with a jumble of mis-matched seats, combined with Rowan’s laid-back attitude, makes you feel you could be at the pub with him and his friends.

He moves seamlessly from hilarious anecdote to poignant poem and back again, all in an easy, comfortable manner.

The aim of North East Rising is primarily to dispel what he feels is the unfair portrayal of the North East.

Among those singled out as main culprits are Geordie Shore and the Guardian’s article comparing Newcastle to the desolate Detroit.

His take on Geordie Shore is hilarious. At one point he likens the stars of the show to tangerine-coloured psychopaths and Newcastle as a playground for oompa loompas.

Poet Rowan McCabe
Poet Rowan McCabe

He tells the stories of what he describes as his quest to find the essence of the North East – a cultural identity, if you will.

These compelling tales, mixed with flashes of self-deprecating humour, make for an easy watch. He held the audience’s attention throughout.

His mission to find the true heart of the region’s culture is enlivened by his energetic performance of poetry and laugh-out-loud satire, with a few pauses for thought.

We are offered an uncanny Cheryl Cole impression, an impersonation of ‘Toon hero’ Joseph Swan (he invented an incandescent lightbulb) and a gangster rap about stotties.

He included some slightly unconventional North East characters, including Pat Tabram, more commonly known as ‘the cannabis gran’.

And there was a guest appearance from Tony the Fridge, the fridge-carrying runner, who read a poem he had written himself.

Support came from Alix Alixandra, a singer-songwriter with a knack for a catchy melody who sang of the modern day troubles of Tinder and Buzzfeed, and Jess Johnson whose hilarious, explosive poems are not for the faint-hearted.

by Bridget McClean


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