Cocktails and Cinquaines is a series of spoken word nights hosted by Keisha Thompson and Rory Dickinson at Contact Theatre. The first Cocktails and Cinquaines took part during the welcome party for Contact’s new Artistic Director and CEO, Keisha Thompson (who we interviewed a few months back).
Performances are presented within the framework of a cocktail: the show consists of a mixer act, ice (an icebreaker activity), a spirit, and finally, a garnish. Cocktails are my drink of choice so I was interested to see how the two would combine.
Despite having studied Drama at the University of Manchester for several years now, I had never been to Contact; it spent years closed for refurbishment. I found it to be a lovely theatre venue, warm and modern, and I am excited to see other shows there in future. The performance space was set up in a cabaret style with the audience sitting at small tables dispersed around the theatre.
Thompson and Dickinson entered, translating French phrases, hints for what the special cocktail of the night would be, before playfully conversing with the audience. This sense of interactivity, which the audience were fully receptive to, continued throughout.
The “mixer” act was musician Ellen Beth Abdi. Her music blew me away as she recorded her own acapella backing track live onstage, controlling the different layers of the track with incredible mastery, all while singing at the same time and making it look effortless. Her voice is breath-taking.
Next, attendees were tasked to write their own cinquaines. Cinquaines are types of poems which, like haikus, have a specific number of syllables per line (2,4,6,8,2). I was unfortunately not brave enough to read mine aloud but those that were read caused great laughter from the audience, usually due to the bluntness of that final two syllable line.
The headline act, or “spirit”, was poet Louise Wallwein MBE, who read some of her own wonderful poetry. In both hers and Abdi’s acts, there was a casualness that I found really added to the atmosphere of the evening with both asking the hosts how many songs/poems they were allowed to perform. It demonstrated that both of these artists were given freedom to express themselves and perform whichever of their works they wanted to.
The whole evening was tied up with a new cocktail presented to Wallwein by mixologist Beatriz Vilela. We had made guesses throughout the night for what this cocktail would be (no one guessed correctly), but it was based on a French orange drink from the 1950s called a “kinnie”. The drink was inspired by an experience Wallwein shared with Vilela pre-show. I actually ordered one in the interval and absolutely loved the taste of it.
Cocktails and Cinquaines nights will return in the future, each entirely unique, one-off nights, where different poets perform and cocktails are created inspired by their poetry. The familiarity of the hosts with the audience and the unpredictably of the night made it a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend attending when the next night comes around, especially if you love trying new cocktails!