If there is one word that Roisin Crowley Linton’s performance screams to me, it is authenticity. Linton is genuine in both her delivery and her sentiment – when she asks her audience questions, she really wants to know the answers. When she speaks about her teenage years it is with a candid honesty and she strikes a refreshing balance between rose-tinted nostalgia and lingering trauma; two extremes that poetry, in particular, can find difficult to integrate.
Her own experiences interplay with those of the “angry young women” that she mentors in community centres and schools across Bristol, but these girls are not used solely as foils for Linton’s own narrative. She tells us their names, gives us their backgrounds, reads us through a poem that she wrote with their help – ‘The ABCs of Being a Teenage Girl’ – brimming with the candour and force of adolescent anger and heartbreak.
And Linton’s own force is not to be underestimated: ‘I Was 14’, a poem recounting her experiences of being sexually assaulted, moved the audience to tears, and the way in which Linton prefaces the poem’s content (with a warning and a request for verbal agreement that we understand we are free to leave if we need) shouldn’t feel radical or progressive, but it does. She has a genuine care for her audience, and for the importance of the stories which she is putting onstage, baring her inner self to us in her aptly named ‘burlesque poetry’. The poetry is free, yet tightly rhymed; delivered with practised pace, yet full of room to breathe and think. When Linton tells you she feels something, you believe her. When the finale comes (and it’s too good to spoil) you don’t need to be convinced to whoop and cheer.