Imogen Stirling’s “Hypocrisy”: A Show Review

‘Hypocrisy’ was the debut Fringe show of poet and performer Imogen Stirling, which was at the Scottish Poetry Library between 8th– 12th August. She combined theatre and music with her captivating spoken word performance, with help from composer and guitarist Ross Sommerville. It was placed on the long list for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award. Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “We select Fringe productions that shine a light on human rights abuses in a meaningful way and #Hypocrisy questions why the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War can be conveniently overlooked as headlines focus on more trivial matters.”

Hypocrisy tells Imogen Stirling’s story, as she busks her way around Europe and then comes home to Glasgow to the realization that a lot of the happy memories she made there, and the life she lived there was only possible through her white privilege. This privilege is something she is painfully aware of throughout her performance. She questions why we in the West tend to dehumanize people in the Middle East and Africa by making them ‘the other’, and the selective nature in which tragedies are portrayed in the news, especially regarding conflict in the Middle East, and terrorism in African countries like Somalia.

The show weaves reflections from her own life busking and performing her poetry, true stories that have affected people she has known, and narratives based on refugees she has met like a man who was a lawyer in his home country, now selling Big Issues on the street, a Syrian boy who was attacked in the streets of Glasgow- in broad daylight- just for wearing a Celtic strip. If you are coming looking for a light-hearted romp, you will be setting yourself up for a disappointment. This show addresses a lot of things Westerners try not to think about and encourages us to question why we do this. It begs you to question, have those ‘hang on a moment’ moments, think for yourself. All of this without coming across as holier-than-thou or patronising.

The set-up was minimal, but the props she did choose were carefully chosen. Sommerville’s compositions that accompanied the show added greatly to the piece, and the musical ideas were subtle yet effective ways to further a point.

It can be incredibly easy to put blinkers on and zone out the terrible things in the world just to get through the day. It is bewildering and terrifying to acknowledge that so many awful things are happening to our fellow humans and knowing you cannot save everyone. Imogen is able to articulate these difficulties that I certainly have had and have had difficulty verbalising until now.

You may think that an hour of political poetry would be exhausting, that it would drag in. You may have, like me, heard multiple ‘political’ poets rant and rave about the problems of the world which seem to have no solution. Yet this shouldn’t have driven you to passing up on seeing Imogen Stirling’s debut fringe show Hypocrisy. With this show she has certainly shown herself to be an author to watch going forward, and I highly look forward to what she has to offer in the future.

 

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