Reviewed by Alex Foott
An Evening with Pam Ayres
Performance date – Thurs 3rd October 2013
As we teeter reluctantly on the brink between summer and autumn, I find myself yearning for just one more day in my home county, picnicking in the bright sunshine on the rolling hills of Dorset. Escaping a rather soggy and crowded Sloane Square and settling into my seat in the auditorium, I watch as my wish is inexplicably granted. Pam Ayres walks on stage and there is a thundering of fervent applause. She is nothing short of a ray of sunshine, grinning and waving at us with real gratitude (forgive the cliché but I have been somewhat inspired by her confidence in using them). Suffice to say, she maintains a jocular atmosphere, craftily combining the unassuming calm of a country bumpkin with her astute observational humour.
She begins by appealing to her somewhat older audience with a poem on the sudden realisation of lost youth. Moving through myriad works dealing with equally universal first world problems, she invites each of us to compare her trivial concerns with our own. Unveiling the sheer span of her work, she explores everything from the joys of dog ownership to marital bickering and even a brief encounter with a jilted cow. Dotted among this collection of jovial and heartwarming pieces are a few sobering moments concerning loss and grief. Thankfully, Ayres keeps these to a minimum, stating that only seldom does she wish to write of something sombre and the evening continues in swells of giddy laughter.
There is something wholly charming about Pam Ayres. She has nothing of the rather off-putting intensity of other poets, doing little to shroud her messages in metaphors. She chooses simply to tell us directly of her concerns. Her utterly disarming innocence serves to catapult the humour of her delivery (and there were actually several gasps of typically British prudery when she dared to say the word ‘penetration’). Ayres provides a most interesting retrospect into her own adolescence, filled with relative inertia until the 1960s hit with its invigorating blend of music, motorbikes and American magazines. A truly admirable moment of the show comes as Ayres demonstrates the evident generation gap caused by that global behemoth Social Media. Drawing empathetic tuts and sighs from the audience, she divulges her ongoing battle with Twitter. Interestingly, by the end of the diatribe, having admitted that it allows her a constant rapport with her fans, she has convinced even the most technophobic among us of its relevance.
The most impressive thing about Pam Ayres is her ability to analyse the banality of everyday life and transform it into a thought-provoking critique of human behaviour. Ricocheting between nostalgia and anticipation for the future, she successfully attracts an audience of all ages. Inviting us, at times, to participate in delivering the predictable rhyming of her poetry, she achieves a performance that feels as comforting as your mum’s cooking. If your mum was an internationally revered poet.