Tongue Fu at the Cheltenham Literature Festival Review

BANG. Not loud enough for your mind go to something terrible but loud enough to startle the entire auditorium. This was closely followed by me waving my arms and legs like a looney in the middle of the second half. Vigorously shaking out my top to get whatever the heck it was off me certainly attracted some attention. Shards of hot glass had fallen from an overheated light that had recently exploded (explaining the bang) onto me. Not anybody else either side of me, just me. Just my luck.

This did somewhat liven up the second half of Tongue Fu at the Parabola Arts Centre for the Cheltenham Literature Festival, not that it needed it being a live improvisational performance. The four members of Tongue Fu led the evening with three guests over the two hour slot. Three musicians on piano, bass guitar, and drums and a compère who may have been the most charismatic man I’ve ever come across, were the main basis of the event but worked with the guests to create a unique, one off performance. It was mesmerising to see them nod and silently signal at each other throughout the evening as they communicated their way through the pieces remaining as professional as a rehearsed band.

Chris Redmond opened explaining that the performance would be an experiment in which anything could happen, which he then demonstrated by performing a piece of comedic spoken word to the musical hybrid genre of Salsa, Chamber and Reggae music. “No failure, only endeavour”, he stated. The three extremely talented musicians could mould to any situation at the drop of a hat and with very little instruction. At one point they reacted perfectly to the idea of “There is water, and love and loss….” and improvised between them an atmospheric track that suited the story being told perfectly.

The guests ranged from fantasy allegory story telling to improvised rap using words taken from the audience such as popcorn and Trump. Each guest had their strengths and skills but were all were outshone by the incredibly talented musicians and loveable compère with his magnetic personality, wit, charm and charisma. As much as I liked the guests would have loved to have more of the four of them next time.


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