Malika Booker at the Manchester Literature Festival


Maisie Scott (The Mancunion) reviews Malika Booker’s performance at the Manchester Literature Festival. Booker spent her childhood in Guyana with her parents (from Guyana and Grenada). Her reading took place on October 8, at the International Anthony Burgess Institute.

[. . .] Arriving “just off the train,” Malika Booker instantly dazzled as she took to the stage, stopping to enthusiastically greet a friend on the cheek as she walked up to the stage it became evident that some familiar faces had come to support Booker with her performance.

The focus Malika Booker was asked to work on for her commissioned event was based on U.K. politics, but her approach also knitted it tightly to her own Caribbean background. Seamlessly, Booker unified British political turbulence with Black History Month, which runs throughout October.

However, she confessed it was not without complication due to the fear that you may “lose the poetry” because you are trying to respond to current affairs.

Understandably, it can be hard to find poetic beauty whilst considering a dismal political climate that contains deeply divisive figures such as Donald Trump and our very own Nigel Farage.

Despite this, Malika Booker was still able to offer her captivated audience a new poetical compass by which to navigate the post-Brexit seas by breaking down speeches by key players such as the headmistress tones of Theresa May, adding an extra Caribbean flavour.

First, she dissected the actual speech of the political figure in question and then she placed it in a couplet with her own Caribbean-inspired response. To considerable comic effect, she made a distinction between the political jargon and her own response by leaning to stage left when quoting from the speech, and to stage right when speaking her own thoughts.

On some level Booker’s use of bodily movement to show the distinction between the fat cats of politics and her private reactions, is reflective of a general feeling in society that those with all the power aren’t actually able to — or choose not to — enact the will of the people. Her theatrical movements reinforced the top-down nature of British politics, leaving UK politicians seem like little more than trustees of an unquantifiable amount of power.

She swiftly undressed UK politicians in her poetry by linking their characters and manner to her chosen animals, which subsequently informed her poetical response to the politician’s speech. An unforgettable set of distinctive images of Caribbean animals were planted into the audience’s minds — Theresa May as the ram goat and Nigel Farage as the crapo frog. [. . .]

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