AllTheFestivals Review

Review: Matt Harvey, Wondermentalist, Assembly Rooms

Matt Harvey: Wondermentalist, Assembly Rooms

  • 4 STARS

Fresh from Radio 4’s Saturday Live Matt Harvey’s solo outing Wondermentalist at Assembly is a strong work that embodies the spirit of afternoon theatre. Ambling his way onstage Harvey cuts a trustworthy, soft spoken relaxed – and relaxing – figure. From the show’s initial stages through to its conclusion his presence is amiable as opposed to overwhelming but undermining Harvey’s inestimable ability at maintaining an audience’s attention would be an error.

Reading from his recently published poetry book – also Wondermentalist – his opening recitation ‘My Queue’ cleverly enunciated to rhyme with ‘I like you’ assisted in perpetrating an immediately warm reaction amongst the crowd who had only recently been part of said queue. Harvey’s poetry relies on the innocuous amalgamated incongruously with the familiar. This, in turn, fashions a work that trivializes the mundane whilst simultaneously lifting it out of its torpor due to his humorous interventions. In this he is similar to the Punk Poet John Cooper Clarke whose barbed caustic delivery is the antithesis of Harvey’s but they ignite their muse from similar themes. Such phrases as ‘see you later/mashed potater’ – from Ode to a Potato – may not transfer well onto the printed page but Harvey’s delivery garnishes them with humour and satirical wit. To hear him deliver a salvo, in unprepossessing almost hushed tones, rap style is like the aural equivalent of seeing your grandparents in the mosh-pit at a Slipknot gig.

Further highlights included a piece of an ‘intense’ nature about home furnishings whilst another about petty thievery entitled ‘Works Perks’ rang truer than many of the audience felt wholly comfortable with. Meanwhile ‘Tense Times Table’ re-iterates the frustration anyone who has ever struggled with mathematics can relate to. Harvey’s vignettes constantly held the audience rapt with seemingly little effort.

Whilst I cannot envisage that Harvey’s poetry will ever be elevated to the level of the ‘Classics’ I think that may indeed be the point. This is a show that doesn’t try too hard – sometimes Harvey’s presence borders on the somnambulant – but that also seems intentional. Not one strictly for poetry lovers either as Harvey’s show moves out of those boundaries and into an area that, at this moment, he can call his own.

Reviewed by: David Marren for