The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts

Written for FEST.

The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts is that unusual mix, an unpolished spoken word performance as raw as the bleeding heart on its Romeo and Juliet-inspired poster. So what if it’s also as romanticised and a little bit sickly sweet? Richard Fry’s compact poetry occasionally sounds like a self help book but he’s not afraid to pull his punches: “I’d take your cancer if you took my gay, because at least that’s fucking treatable, it might go away.” Ouch.

Suited and booted like a crumpled Plan B, Fry is a chunky yet soft presence. He switches from taking on the role of his hero John Wayne (not that one) and a storyteller who reads from a book, nonchalantly skipping forward pages as time passes. These switches of perspective from emotional to cool, from subject to object make for a strangely off kilter sense of reality. Is this story true? Would it matter more if it were? As he waxes ever more lyrically about a utopian ideal of a world where people are nice to each other, sadly you begin to think no. But if it is just a parable, is it any worse for that?

Because Fry’s on a mission. The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts has moments of palpable quasi-religious passion in his belief in the need to highlight the issue of gay suicide. It’s refreshing to see a spoken word performer reveal this much of himself personally and be a bit dangerous. Fry’s fervour transforms this otherwise standard fairytale into something that feels important.

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