Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: UnErase Poetry – Stories from India, Prague Fringe Festival 2024, ★★★★★

Welcome to UnErase Poetry where three perceptive, articulate and emotionally literate human beings invite the audience to visit their country of India. Thankfully the method of transportation required is not an expensive long haul flight,  but the simple act of listening and letting the words spoken permeate our ever thickening skins. Simple rhymes, well-executed builds in momentum, clear delivery, and amusing narrative asides leave the audience powerless to resist the charm, humanity and transformative effects of Taranjit Kaur, Simar Singh and Helly Shah’s storytelling.

One of the first things you learn about poetry is that it should be read aloud. Where a book can and probably should be read internally; the emotion of poetry is held in the rhythm and pattern of the words. It is a joy then to hear poetry as spoken by the poet. The second joy is to witness the poem not as an isolated piece of text on a page, but as something that exists before you in the flesh of a person, their expressions and the words they choose to tether the poem to a place and time. The third joy, particular to only the best spoken-word performances, is a sense that the words spoken are performing an act of healing on speaker and audience alike.

UnErase Poetry achieve all of the above. Kaur, Singh and Shah speak of their lived experiences not to criticise their nation and its traditions but for the sake of connection and change. In a time where it is all too easy to feel disillusioned by the conditions of our respective nations, it is deeply reassuring to watch a collective of people turn feelings of frustration, oppression and fear into words that soothe, heal and inspire new ways of being.

Anger is clearly prevalent in Kaur, Singh and Shah’s feelings towards India and the views and beliefs that shaped their early lives. In poems ranging from topics of skin colour, modern womanhood and sex, to toxic masculinity, oppressive familial figureheads and the daunting search for love in 2024 it is clear that they are proud to be Indian but similarly exasperated by the trappings of that cultural identity. To be paler is to be more beautiful; to be a woman is to do everything and never let the smile slip; to become pregnant is to mean you are blessed by God; to be a father is to mould your son into the expected image; to be a man is to hide your pain; and to find love is to find your parent’s consent.

Kaur, Singh, and Shah’s spoken word performances act as an antidote to these beliefs. Kaur movingly proclaims her love of her skin, shares the day she chose to be a woman rather than superwoman, and details the pains she took to educate her son on consent – and the blind spot she identified in her own feminism in the process. Singh compellingly addresses Papa asking for the freedom to choose his own trajectory, he tells the audience to ask the men in their life about their dreams and sorrows, and his ad lib on a famous Indian love poem conveys his reverence for another man’s feelings of love.

Last, but certainly not least, the structure of Shah’s poems strays from the rhythm we have come to expect: a story that merges into poetry through the introduction of a background melodic beat. All of her words are poetry, and all of her words are focused on interrogating romantic love. She is a young woman questioning love and thus the answers are far more elusive, but no less emotive, than those of Kaur or Singh.

A powerful trio, UnErase Poetry offers an intimate, funny and enlightened insight into the expectations, relationships and all-consuming love that shape Indian life and culture. Great skill and thought have been put into the making of the show and we can only thank them for making the physical journey to share their words and country with us.

Recommended Drink:  A Mug of Mulled Wine – a warm hug that leaves you satisfied, comforted and alive in equal measure.

Catch UnErase Poetry as part of Prague Fringe at Malostranská Beseda until the 1st of June. Tickets are available through the Prague Fringe Box Office.

Eilidh McKenzie

Eilidh is a writer, reader and avid watcher of film, television and theatre. She loves writing that blends comedy with darkness, and makes public the quirks of life and character that we've been taught to hide. She also aspires to be fluent in Spanish, but so far this has proved far harder than expected.

Festivals: Adelaide Fringe (2024) , Prague Fringe (2024)
Pronouns: She/Her