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Live / stage review

The Storm Officer: Extreme weather and the human spirit

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The Storm Officer

Matt Black writes poems for adults and children. Matt is already a Sheffield favourite, having lived and worked in the area for many years. His poetry is serious and sad, joyous and sharp.

Matt tells me that "as a writer, your voice is chosen for you to some extent by your personality". He suggests this could be seen as a weakness, but from his skilled pen it is genuine and unpretentious. He uses the small details of a situation, expressing exactly the essence of being human in all its silliness and wonder.

Matt was invited to write a pamphlet of poems inspired by the TEMPEST database of extreme weather and spent a morning "joyously jumping around the centuries," reading "glittering treasures of gorgeously written accounts of the extraordinary events and struggles that extreme weather forces on people and places".

At the same time, in December 2015, Cumbria was being battered by Storm Desmond and Matt visited the area, where local people shared their stories with him. He felt that poetry as a medium would seem too distant and extraordinary to tell these stories. It struck him that "theatre shows would have some advantages". And so the work turned into his first play.

Matt was involved in the whole process of auditioning, casting and rehearsing and says that working with skilled actors added layers to his writing that he could not have done. His trademark humanity and comedy are kept fully intact.

"In desperate and disastrous situations, people do frequently turn to humour for relief," he says. "We become more open to feelings once we have laughed, so having some laughter in a show helps us to open up."

The Storm Officer comes to Theatre Deli in Sheffield on 12 February.

Next article in issue 143

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