The Great WORD Debate : uproariously entertaining – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

Irreverently silly, relentlessly roasting and just a little bit real, the Great WORD Debaters had a sold out audience in stitches at The Piano Concert Chamber on Saturday night.

Blurring those lines again (you know the ones, fact and fiction), the speakers entertained with anecdotes, shaggy dog stories, impressions and some pretty solid arguments.

Adventure being the theme of the festival, the topic of debate left everything to the imagination: 

That we should be free to choose our own adventure.

The M.C. for the evening was larger-than-life Joe Bennett, who had those of us who thought we were worn out sitting up in our seats, introducing:

Team for the Affirmative: Paula Morris, Tom Scott and Daniel Mallory (AJ Finn).

Team for the Negative: Michele A'Court, David Slack and Denise Mina.

Paula Morris, herself an international woman of mystery, opened proceedings with a wry, witty and clean (which is more than I can say for some) argument in favor of choosing to live an adventurous life, and the value of being free to choose said adventures. Playing the straight-woman, her stern jokes were all the more funny as she suggested that the team for the negative would rather be tucked up in bed with a cup of tea.

Michele A'Court, as leader of the opposition, fired back with hilarious and strong arguments in favour of letting our adventures choose us. Perhaps Michelle went to Charlotte Grimshaw as her point hinged on the existential question that it's not the grand plan, but the surprises that make our lives big, rich and entertaining. Michele herself has lived a "daring, high-risk" life at the hands of her publishers.

Michele embellished her case with such colourful examples as oysters having no grit, a WORD Festival with no books (horrors!) and the clincher that

"Careful planning did not produce Jacinda Ardern's baby."

The fabulously received and recently iconized (it happened last night) Tom Scott set the bar for impressions, invoking Sir Rob Muldoon in a way that was so spooky I would have had goosebumps if I wasn't laughing so hard. However he then lowered the tone, telling stories about Sir Edmund Hillary and others that, if true, would make your grandmother blush. In fact I'm sure I saw some. (I'm not sure I would choose some of the adventures Tom was suggesting.)

Next up David Slack who was of the opinion that if choice was the issue, we should be free to choose not to have adventures, as one can just as easily have them safely at home. David cited the perils of hiring cowboys to do renovations, striking fear into the heart of every Cantabrian. The third person from Feilding besides me and Tom Scott, David's list of adventurous activities include a good cheese scone and putting Feilding in your rear view mirror. Lol.

But it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Things got a little bit real when M.C. Joe Bennett ribbed Dan Mallory that after his huge success (Dan/AJ's book, The Woman in the Window is the biggest seller in the world right now), it would be all downhill from here.

Dan's argument completely kicked this to the kerb with a (literally) mind-blowing and incredibly brave tale of his battle with depression; choosing to take the risk of ECT treatment. The fact that the highly successful author saw this as an adventure was testament to his determination to choose how to define it. 

Lastly, the delightful Denise Mina, who based her whole argument on a professional life of being thrown in at the deep end; using this evening as an example. Mina reiterated her team's point that one doesn't need to choose wild adventures to the Great Wall of China so that you can bore your friends and relatives to death with photos. Instead life can come at you, she said, observing that it might be naively adventurous to invite a Glaswegian to a friendly argument.

If you want an adventure, says Mina, come to Glasgow and eat the food.

Traditionally a draw, last night's Great WORD Debate had a clear winner; the side for the affirmative. We like clear winners here.

Follow our coverage of WORD Christchurch Festival 2018