Seven Times Me
Kat Francois @ SAAFL
7:00pm, Sat 15 Mar 2008
Pretty much everything written about Seven Times Me includes a reference to solo performer Kat Francois’ World Poetry Slam Champion pedigree (see how effortlessly I managed to slip it in?) Precious little, however, tends to be written on the powerful nature of Francois’ performance; apparently “world champion” and “slam” is supposed to convey it all. Never mind the fact that 99.9% of everyone everywhere – including those who copy & paste the words – don’t know what a poetry slam is (I was in that pot too) and can’t be arsed finding out (not anymore, though).
Towards the tail end of our astonishing hot spell, it was a real relief to be going to a show so close to home – the SAAFL, where Shakti’s Garage International contingent are based, is a mere two minutes walk from my abode. That’s great for me, but rubbish for Fringe foot traffic – and I certainly hope that more people turned up on an average night than the three that were present this evening. That’s right, three people – staff & crew outnumbered us two-to-one.
With little fanfare and barely a dip in the house lights, Kat Francois takes to the stage and delivers her monologue. Of West Indian descent, but English-born, her story is of growing up one of seven children. It’s generally a cheerful tale focussed on the closeness and love of family, but there’s some rather brutal underpinnings – the physical violence of her step-father (The Beast), and the psychological violence of her altercations with the police (leading to civil action). There’s also some wrought and tender moments stemming from heartbreak, the odd TMI personal snippet (ewww, tampons!), but throughout you’re absolutely sucked into Francois’ story.
Why? Because, quite simply, she is astonishingly compelling onstage. She’s not that big, but she owns the room when she projects herself into it, roaming with anger, still with compassion. And her vocal delivery is delicious – spoken word effortlessly slips into verse then trips into song then back to prose, her intonations niggling cognition long after the word has passed. Her confidence is supreme; she is a master at what she does.
So, that’s the good – well, the very very good – aspect of Seven Times Me. How about the bad?
Three people. For fuck’s sake, that’s a crime.
Go and watch this video of Kat’s BBC Poetry Slam performance. It is really, truly, fucking amazing. And then admonish yourself because you didn’t see her perform Seven Times Me, because it was as raw, honest, and powerful a show as you could possibly hope for.