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Do you ever wish you could command a crowd of strangers? Feel like you’re not being recognised for the intellectual or political genius you are? Perhaps you’re a secret super-villain? In which case, could I recommend to you an excellent hour spent in the company of poet and story-teller Tim Clare?

Tim visited Colchester Arts Centre touring his show How to be a Leader, which starts in almost total darkness as he tells us about an experiment carried out to see how strangers would behave without light in a room together for 60 minutes – by 45 minutes, most were engaging in ‘intimate activity’… Now, the lights did come back on but Tim’s delivery, a mixture of earnest enthusiasm, humour and irony, set the tone for the show. 

The select gathering in the room, sitting relaxed around small tables, laughed more and more uproariously as Tim guided us through his rules for becoming a great leader, based on such diverse ideas as the hardcore attitude of a South Korean premier, an “awesome origin story” TM involving a violent encounter at a Bristol open mic poetry night and how to create the basics of a welfare state using only snacks.  

Tim was confident without arrogance, effortlessly drawing us in as he told anecdotes full of drama and analysed leadership techniques particularly quirky and extreme. His command of language and rhetoric was clear, especially when discussing rule 3 (the open mic night) and then when emailing the “spell lady”, from whom he hoped to gain magical powers to enthrall man-(and woman)kind. This was, I think, my favourite part of the show, as Tim’s evil intentions were gradually revealed, to little or no reaction from the spell lady in question. 

After a finale in which Tim fulfilled an ambition by rapping about various female leaders, having acknowledged the gender bias of the rest of the show, came the prize-giving: a Kinder Egg for the most sycophantic audience member.  My heart leapt as Tim stepped into the audience, brandishing the chocolatey treat, but to my great disappointment, it went to the man at the next table.  To be fair, he did laugh extremely loudly.  I’ll have to content myself with being a member of the dissatisfied middle class after all.

Kate Neilan

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