"I can guarantee at Speakeasy you’ll find someone to lend you an ear"Poster/ Sarah Adegbite

Under the prohibition era, speakeasies referred to underground bars that sold illicit alcohol to Americans desperate for a good time. They were places to circumvent government restrictions on the consumption of drink. Interestingly, they were often areas where Americans of all races and genders mixed in a way that would be forbidden above ground, a breaking of social and racial boundaries at a place where human revelry arguably made possible a strange kind of togetherness .

I have to say that the Speakeasy open mic nights held at Cambridge’s very own ADC Theatre Bar aren’t so risqué, but I like to think they embody some of the good spirit of those early 20th century clubs: spotlights, artsy conversation, and a place to get your voice heard.

“You can trip over words and laugh at your fledgling work in progress”

I pitched Speakeasy as a show to the ADC committee in Michaelmas last year, and this term we have slowly seen the show come to fruition. Speakeasy is a rebranded, relaunched resurrection of the Christ’s Amateur Dramatic spoken word poetry nights under the same name. I envisioned Speakeasy as a night of poetry, dramatic monologue, and stand-up comedy in a small and intimate setting. It facilitates the mingling of genres that lend themselves to different subject matter but speak over each other in dynamic ways. It all takes place at ADC bar, with only a single microphone and spotlight to accompany each performer.

“Incredible power emerges when you perform aloud”

But what does it take to perform a piece at an open mic? Like me, you can be notoriously last minute, choosing what piece to perform only 10-15 minutes before my set, or you can prepare and rehearse in front of the mirror for a week in advance. The reason I feel so able to be spontaneous is because I know that this is a space to experiment. You can trip over words and laugh at your fledgling work in progress. It is a space to cross over the voice of self-criticism and just… see how it goes. What really matters is the space you take up and the spirit you channel when you do come to perform. I love poetry written down on the page, but an incredible power emerges when you perform aloud and let your work fall on anticipating ears, a creativity of rhythm and rhyme and tone and time that simply captivates.

The format of an open mic is inherently conversational. Without intending to, the poem performed at the start speaks to the closing comedian’s final joke, or the two dramatic monologues performed on either side of an interval form an unintentional dialogue. 


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Individuals performing at an open mic form their own sort of cast. For example, on the first Speakeasy night of term, Tamara Himani’s moving and tongue-in-cheek spoken word piece about growing up Lebanese (entitled ‘Fish and Chips’) found a dialogue partner with a poem I performed about navigating dual British-Nigerian heritage – both spoke to the struggles of diaspora identities but employed different poetic techniques to get there. 

Speaking is the easy bit – it’s finding someone willing to listen that daunts and twists the stomach. But I can guarantee at Speakeasy you’ll find someone to lend you an ear.

To sign up to perform at a Speakeasy open mic night, visit the Facebook event.