I am a great believer that poetry should be heard, and Whistle is a perfect example of the way in which hearing poetry will alter ones experience and relation to the text.
Martin Figura’s voice is so soothing and melodic that he could have been reading out his shopping list and it still would have sounded good. I find it hard to think of a reason why someone wouldn’t enjoy being read to in such an enigmatic manner. Listening to Figura read was like listening to a piece of classical music, his tone akin to the low strum of a cello.
Whistle is completely autobiographical, but at no point did it feel self-indulgent or egotistical in anyway. If anything Figura has the demeanour of someone quite shy and humble, this makes him even more likable.
When I interviewed Figura he told me that he wanted to use autobiography in his work because he has a story to tell. The story which he has to tell is deeply moving and in many ways marks the long lasting effects of the war, and indicates the way in which the past inevitably effects the present. After the war his father, who became mentally unwell, killed his wife because he suspected her of having an affair.
Figura tells this life changing story with honesty and without being overly emotional or dramatic. The tragedy of his mother’s death, and the effect which it had on his childhood is told through the image of a film reel disappearing, like a life that disappears, slips through our finger tips and all that is left in its place are photographs that spark memories. Figura describes his childhood memories with striking metaphors and spine chilling imagery, and he really did deliver each word beautifully.
Figura does not describe himself as an actor but he has a strong presence on stage. His performance style switched between conversational narration and slam poetry, which gave an interesting array of tones and rhythms, beats and flows. The past is narrated through first hand experiences, old family photographs, animation, and his mother’s love letters. His mothers presence in the performance is made through a voice recording, her voice is intertwined with Figura speeche’s, like a ghost from the past who is simultaneously present and absent.
You’ll leaving feeling as though you’ve got to know Figura, as if you’d made a friend. I highly recommend that you go to see Whistle if anything purely to see how beauty can emerge from tragedy, and witness the innate musicality of poetic language, at its finest.
Performed at the Roundhouse.