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.
For more information go here