Ross Sutherland is a performance poet/stand-up comedian, touring a multimedia show containing animation and music; The Three Stigmata of Pacman. Yesterday BLANKSPACE hosted the show in a special In_Tuition creative writing event. It was free to get in, free bar, and a brilliant show, all for the price of a smile. I had never heard of Ross before, except when Abby and John mentioned they had booked him, and really had no idea what to expect. Poetry, ho hum; but no! It was lively, exciting, properly well produced, and most importantly, piss funny.
Occasional poems, some of which spilled over into a kind of rap or toast, fit nicely into a larger narrative about the last year of Ross’ life. I don’t think it’s right to give away spoilers, and it’s certainly not write to ruin jokes, so I’ll stay away from any details (even though Ross himself gives some jokes away in trailer). But needless to say, the narrative he has created is extremely strong, had me completely hooked, and never bored. As a poet not all of it is played for laughs, but the quieter introspective moments help to build the show into a complete work of art.
I sat near the back for the show, drinking the biggest glass of white wine I could get, wishing I had my notebook with me to record some of the cleverer lines. Early in to the show I thought to myself Ross is like a cross between Stewart Lee and Scroobius Pip. I can’t quantify that thought; there is no actual sliding scale between those two disparate creatives, but if there were I would try and stick Ross on it somewhere. It turns out I’m not the first to make the Stewart Lee observation; something called The List has already done that. At least I didn’t lazily play the Dave Gorman documentary comedian card.
I want to talk a little about the bin, but that would set the spoiler alert flashing. Needless to say it’s modified and it’s no ordinary bin; it’s symbolic. Besides the props, music, and animation, Ross’ wordplay is satisfying enough to stand up by itself. He throws away quality lines that lesser performers may milk more; he is confident enough to repeat himself, make obscure references, overplay and underplay, and all sorts of other great little tricks that inspire confidence and mirth. I chuckled, chortled, and indeed guffawed.
Then we went to piss or smoke, charged our glasses, and grouped back for the Q&A. I shoehorned an only partly relevant Stewart Lee quote into my question; partly because he was on my mind, and partly as a clever dick response to a reference to Simon Munnery that Ross made earlier in the evening. By this point I was a bit drunk, and can’t remember the question or the answer. The quote was the one about the last taboo in comedy being trying to do something well and sincerely without sneering sarcasm, bullying, or irony. I feel strongly that Ross is among those breaking that taboo.