Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Amsterdam
Amsterdam *** (Three Stars)
Jahmar Ngozi, Solomon Adams and Danielle Allen. theSpace @ Jury’s Inn. August 17th. 8.05 PM. £8 (£5 concessions).
Amsterdam is unlike any other show I have seen at the Fringe this year. For one, it incorporates both music and improvisation, but perhaps more importantly the style of its delivery is completely different to most shows billed as spoken word. Ngozi and Adams (there was no evidence of Allen’s presence or explanation for her absence) were not merely two acts sharing a billing, but two artists in conversation with each other and, to a certain degree with the audience.
As we made our way to our seats, it felt like the show had already started with the two poets deep in discussion about romance, cities and proposals, occasionally throwing a question out to us. “My next play might be called Edinburgh,” Ngozi said in a very heartfelt manner. “It might be my new favourite city – it used to be Amsterdam.” Combined with the set-up of the two poets seated unless one was performing solo, the mics angled down towards them, gave the effect of being at a podcast or radio show recording. Ngozi in particular, especially with the jazz instrumentals underneath, had the tone and smoothness of a late-night DJ and the attitude of a musician being interviewed on Jools Holland.
Whilst both are evidently very skilled performers both in pre-written and practiced material and freestyle, Adams proved better on this particular night. This was largely to do with his ability to engage the audience, which Ngozi seemed almost to have forgotten about by the time the show was properly underway. Whilst Ngozi, wearing sunglasses in a dark room, seemed to deliver his solo pieces entirely to Adams, Adams remembered that there was indeed an audience deserving of some attention.
The first part of the show (and my favourite part) seemed to dwell entirely on romance – there was no fragile masculinity here as both poets, again Adams with particular dexterity, confessed their love of women. “Any relationship I get into, I think rigorous honesty had to be the foundation,” Adams said to murmurs of agreement from both Ngozi and the audience.
Amsterdam suffered from not quite knowing what it was. The title is taken from Ngozi’s work and the final poem of the show (as the blurb suggests, a meditation on Van Gogh), although this was only very tangentially related to all the other material we had heard. Despite the final line of the piece (“I dream about writing poems and when I wake I write poems about my dreams”), the ending seemed abrupt, jarring and a little ill thought through.
That being said, Ngozi and Adams managed a great feat – the most diverse audience I have seem at the Edinburgh Fringe with many people of colour and queer people attending. They encouraged everyone to hang out with them after the show had ended and even went to the pub with a several of us, keen to know more about their audience members and engage with them. Ngozi and Adams have the beginnings of something very special – Amsterdam is just a slightly wonky first draft.
Write Out Loud reviews: Five stars – Truly exceptional. Four stars – Brilliant. Three stars – Really good. Two stars – Some strong points. One star – Not recommended.