SevenStreets has fond memories of listening to John Hegley on Mark Radcliffe’s show in the mid 90s, bringing poetry to the masses on Radio 1. That seems an unlikely prospect these days, but Hegley keeps cropping up on enough things across the BBC to keep him in the public eye.
There are many books, and there are always tour dates – particularly for his acclaimed children’s shows. He also speaks of workshops he does in schools, prisons and libraries. And now there’s a new book – The Adventures Of Monsieur Robinet.
The show features bits from the book, but also detours into his family’s exotic lives, particularly his father’s, his upbringing in Luton and Bristol, university and family.
Hegley ambles onto stage, hands in pockets, and simply starts talking about the set design probably best described as minimalist. He tells us what he’s been doing, reads some poems and weaves some stories about his family into the set. It’s like the best teacher ever deciding to bin off the lesson and read you some of his favourite stuff.
Hegley is rather teacherly in manner too, admonishing the audience – deadpan – for its poor responses or errors in the musical number participation or silly questions. During the first number he eyes up a youngster on the front row, precariously balanced on one of the Everyman’s battered seats. Half way through he simply gives up on the song and wonders whether the child in question is going to fall into the gap in the chair. A world away from a portentous monologue, it feels like a chat with your most talented friend.
Hegley is a talented musician, a bad dancer and and entertainer par excellence, but his poetry and wit and wordplay are enormously impressive. He should be all over stuff like QI, The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Tonight’s show is funny, warm, bittersweet and surreal by turn; he is a genuine national treasure.