Hegley's Journals and Playlets with Simon Munnery, Traverse Theatre

Hegley thoughts from abroad
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The Independent Culture

It's certainly not the punchiest of titles, though you'd hardly expect anything else from John Hegley, the man voted the nation's second favourite poet.

It's certainly not the punchiest of titles, though you'd hardly expect anything else from John Hegley, the man voted the nation's second favourite poet. Fancy words just aren't his forte. He's here to read a selection of poems inspired by his journals, some of which date as far back as his childhood in a Luton bungalow.

We're also presented with his first dramatic outing, an untitled tale about two friends who take a weekend break in a nameless English town. Hegley is the one in charge here; Simon Munnery, the brains behind Alan Parker Urban Warrior and The League Against Tedium, is employed as the jobbing actor, a role to which he is oddly suited.

Back to the journals. The majority of poems are about Hegley's travels abroad, though it must be said that he's no Paul Theroux. He's travelled as far afield as Colombia and India, yet his observations are awesomely mundane. In a hotel bathroom in Portugal, he is horrified to find that "the plug is not snug". In Bogota, he discovers that his hotel provides "perfect pencils", larger than the kind you might find in English hotels. Yes, he's genuinely excited by this.

Hegley conveys the greatest of ideas with a few well-chosen words. His delivery is like someone midway through a yawn. Vowel sounds are stretched to breaking point; he spits words out and crumples his face as though he's got a mouthful of broken glass. He's tetchy, too – if we laugh too loudly, he shoots us with a sharp look.

The playlet, also spoken in verse, is a more upbeat and physical affair – there's even singing and dancing – though ultimately it's less satisfying. Given that Hegley has given Munnery four roles to play and himself just two, he clearly doesn't have much faith in his own acting talents. But there's a certain energy to both their performances. It's a glorious moment when Hegley breaks into a dance. At last, those knock knees have been put to good use.

Venue 15 (0131-228 1404) 11 Aug, 2.45pm (4.15pm) and 12 Aug, 5.30pm (7pm)

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