Bethan Tachwedd reviews Pyramid Scheme, a live literary event started by Welsh authors Dan Tyte and Richard Owain Roberts.
In one of the promotional preview pieces leading up to the début of Pyramid Scheme, Marc Thomas, editor of Plastik Magazine – Cardiff’s arbiter of the cultural zeitgeist, described the city’s literary scene as ‘boring’ and ‘apres garde’. It is difficult to disagree with this acerbic assessment. But was Thomas right to pin his hopes for a renaissance on Pyramid Scheme, the joint venture from authors Dan Tyte and Richard Owain Roberts?
The Kings Road artist studios in Pontcanna is an interesting choice of location for a literary event: small cubicles, narrow corridors, a prominent warehouse aesthetic. More on this later. The forty or so in attendance (in truth too many for a venue of this size and cavernous dimensions) sipped lager and checked their Twitter, the average trouser-fit exponentially tighter than the national median. Indeed prior to the event, one reviewer and mainstay of the ‘apres garde’ had blithely quipped about turning up to ‘review haircuts’ – whatever that means.
The night opened with attendees instructed to cram into one of the small cubicles, those slow on the uptake forced to crane their necks around the corners of the two side walls. Adam Christopher Smith produced a quietly assured reading that would be worthy of headlining another night. This opening reading also established the apparent house style: no introductions from the hosts beyond the reader’s name and no mundane reader ‘I wrote this about the time when…’ babbling. The audience approved. Steve Lucas and Keara Creed followed, audience approval continued.
Joao Morais headlined the opening segment of the evening and generated real heat amongst the audience. Reading from his smart phone, he remained measured and composed even as those listening laughed boisterously with his tale of sex and shame: deliciously formed graphic language delivered with technical precision and control. Those who have previously read his fiction would certainly not have been disappointed, whereas those new to him would now be seeking out his work as a matter of urgency.
Next up was the live Skype reading from Canada. Montreal resident Guillaume Morissette won over the audience early with a confident and blackly funny reading from his novel New Tab (Véhicule Press). He read for ten minutes, stopped, checked with the crowd who unanimously called for more, and went again. The internet connection failed before he could finish, which chimed perfectly with his fiction’s bittersweet outlook on life. Either way, it didn’t matter, it was a fantastic reading – the audience’s laughter throughout was a testament to that.
Headlining the readings, the hosts, Dan Tyte (Half Plus Seven, Parthian Books) and Richard Owain Roberts (All The Places We Lived, Parthian Books, March 2015) took to the stage, or rather cubicle, and rounded off the fiction segment of the night with a joint reading of a collaborative piece. It would be fair to say that neither Tyte or Roberts give the impression of lacking anything in the confidence stakes, so perhaps fittingly this was an audacious concept and audacious performance to round off an audacious evening.
Shortly after they had finished their reading, and as the crowd queued for the bar in readiness for Summer Ghost closing out the evening with an emotionally charged and technically intriguing performance, I spotted Tyte and Roberts on the outside stairwell, standing in silence, studying their smartphones and periodically looking up to nod at each other. Kings Road studios, a shell of a building held together by creaking floors and wrought iron beams. Do not disturb. Building in process.
Kings Road Artist Studios, Pontcanna, Cardiff, August 28th 2014