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REVIEW: John Hegley and the Biscuit of Destiny


Venue: Cheltenham Playhouse

John Hegley and his hilarious performance poetry closed out the Cheltenham Poetry Festival on Saturday in their final fantastic event at the Cheltenham Playhouse.



John Hegley is a performance poet, comedian, musician, and songwriter. His first poetry book was published in 1984, and this most recent performance at the Playhouse was partly based on his 2021 book 'A Scarcity of Biscuit: Pieces drawn largely from the letters, life and laughter of John Keats'.

Hegley’s poetry is derived from his experience working with charities and schools, as well as anecdotes about his life, constructing a journey of his life through poetry. At times he rocked out on the ukulele, belting out songs about how glasses are a betrayal of humanity, but are also surprisingly a wonderful instrument when tapped in harmony together.



There was an element of audience participation, Hegley encouraging us to flap our arms like the wings of a Guillemot bird, and asking us to vote on which elephant picture projected on-screen was our favourite. It was nice that the whole audience participated at once, rather than one or two of us being picked on as some comedians do. It created a lovely atmosphere for the final event of the festival.

Hegley’s poetry is also informed by previous writers, drawing inspiration from Wordsworth, Greek mythology, and his half-French heritage. In his songs and poems about Keats, using quotes from Keats' real letters, Hegley illuminates a more playful side of the soulful poet than we’d expect, imagining him riding down the road on a hobby horse on his way to visit his beloved sister.


A thank you to Annie Ellis, the Cheltenham Poetry Festival Life Patron, as well as John Hegley and the hosts for a fantastic evening. We look forward to next year’s festival with anticipation!

Review by Leah Clarke


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