Review: Neither Here Nor There 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Spoken word

Neither Here Nor There

Summerhall, v26

19:15 (ends 25 August)

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (Five Star)

I’m not sure quite what I was expecting from this show: what I got was a delightful hour spent in scintillating company, with the added bonus of fruit!

A small group of people gathered in Summerhall’s courtyard beside the placard saying β€œNeither Here Nor There”, and began making conversation on the lines of β€˜oh hallo, have you come far? what brought you here?’ We were led on a short walk out of the courtyard, on to the street, back in through Summerhall’s front door and along a corridor to what, in the daytime, is the cafΓ©, where we found tables and chairs waiting for us – and the aforementioned FRUIT: loads of it, which we were invited to eat. I fell on it, having had a particularly fruit-less week.

Our hosts Jo and Sonia gradually revealed the format for the evening by example. A bell chimed, and we were told that this would be our six-minute sign. Jo began, talking seemingly randomly but always interestingly, and stopped as the chimes signified her time was up. Among the things she mentioned, very significantly [with hindsight] was people’s tendency to polarise in conversation – to state individual [often diametrically opposed] points of view and stick to them, leaving the whole middle ground between them unexplored [and maybe, I would add, without ever really listening to the person with whom they were talking].

We sat in pairs and were handed a card with a question on it: one person answered while the other sat and listened, without commenting, interrupting or questioning. When the six minutes were up, the listener was given a card with a different question. None of the questions had simple yes/no answers, most could be interpreted in a variety of ways, and all of them gave scope for going as deeply into a subject as one chose. I felt free to answer as simply or as complicatedly as I chose, revelling in being listened to attentively, and being able to give my full attention to what my partner said when they were speaking. At various points, we changed partners. Finally, we were instructed to Review: Neither Here Nor There 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟indulge in β€œgeneral chat” and then, most reluctantly, invited to leave as our time was up.

It sounds so simple: it was so profound.

I had intense exchanges with Sarah Jane, Charlie, and Sonia, and loved every minute of it. It is a fascinating discipline to keep silent and simply listen to someone, and equally fascinating to be allowed uninterrupted space in which to talk: when Sarah Jane’s time was up she found it hard to believe she’d been talking for six minutes… I really appreciated the depth from which people were led to speak, and was sorry to have to part from each of my conversation partners, feeling that there was so much more to explore with them, and enjoying their interest in what I had to say.

I felt we had met as strangers and parted as friends. It’s a very simple and effective format, which brings rich rewards: I urge you to try it for yourself.

Mary Woodward