So I’m writing this at an unusual pace as I’m aware it’s not on for very long… until Saturday 6th October to be precise at the Royal Court Theatre – click the link for tickets.
Maybe it will transfer? Hopefully it will!
This production was great – and I'm learning that I generally enjoy productions that break the traditional mould but have some structure. Organised mess is how I’d describe this – as there is structure but it recreates the one we are used to... and updates it! I think the structure of the piece should reflect the story and this piece definitely considered how Grime has structure - but doesn't follow convention.
Not to spoil too much but don’t you just love when in the middle of watching something - someone or thing interrupts what you are supposed to be watching, interrupting your thought flow?
I do – it helps me connect with the present, teaches me I’m not in this world alone and ultimately reminds me of why I love the liveness that theatre offers! Poet in the corner is a mix of being a theatre production and a Grime concert (literally my world) and executes both successfully.
Honest moment - Jealousy definitely crept in as I sat by myself in the audience. I would absolutely have loved to be a part of this process in some way. I am so interested in crossroads, mixtures, a clash of community, racial groups and classes - and have written my own plays exploring Grime (Pun de Corner and London Will Call). Being able to manipulate my emotions now for the positive, watching A Poet in Da Corner was definitely inspiration and helped to solidify the type of work I’m in to.
So I’m by myself, but have had my large glass of wine, emptied my bladder and seen several people I know, so feeling nice. An instrumental comes on – as I sat in my seat at the Royal Court… by myself, and I’m feeling nicer… excited… gassed. Grime, Garage, Dancehall, Hip Hop has this affect on me.
However, the gas was soon released, if I'm completely honest as the cast entered the stage, especially the racially ambiguous Debris Stevenson (the main character). My exact thought was “Really… not one dark skinned person… this is a play about Grime right? ”. I mean – I didn’t necessarily expect someone who looks like me (a dark skinned, natural, female) but one of the three isn’t bad. (On reflection one of the cast had locs and two were female so my rant really is about skin tone and making sure when telling Black origin stories that there is at least a Black skinned person present).
Distracted slightly as Debris Stevenson (the main character) started speaking - there was something familiar with her sound; her vocal speech pattern was hypnotic, but ultimately I found her whiteness distracting.
Honest moment – the last time I was at the Court was to see a play called Notes from the Field whereby the lead Actress Anna Deavere Smith is also what I would describe as racially ambiguous.
Now excuse me for not doing my research before each production to psychologically prepare, but this is strategic on my part – so I can honestly express my thought pattern in the moment.
In Notes from the Field - Anna impersonates Black men that are/ have been oppressed and walks us through their stories. This production was full on documenting the murder of Black people by non Black people in ‘high positions’ that is currently taking place in the USA. It's a current issue about racial oppression and my feeling on colourism are unapologetically roar. If Race is a concept, darker skinned people having a harder time on earth is a fact - and watching a 'white passing person' play an actual Black man just felt uncomfortable! Here I was - the only Black person I could see in the audience, watching what I perceived to be a White woman re-enact dark skinned trauma. Not to make this about that production, but I think because of how uncomfortable, angry, unsafe and awkward I felt (until learning that Anna’s ethnicity was Black and other – which actually helped), it influenced and triggered all of those emotions when I saw Debris Stevenson enter the stage for Poet in Da Corner, and chat the mic to the Grime beat. Maaaaad!!
Then that interruption I mentioned in the intro happens.
Stop. Hold! Pause!!
DJ viper makes his epic entrance to challenge not just what story is being told here, but also whose perspective is being told, and also why that perspective once again gets to be heard, gets to be staged!!
Most of all though, Dj Vipers entrance challenged and interrupted my own thought pattern! This moment was so important and to be honest was the moment that re-invested me properly into the production.
10 minutes in, and I lean forward in my chair, focused my eyes on the stage, cleared my thoughts and enjoyed the rest of the show.
With my favourite topic of Race being dealt with head on, real questions and concerns about gentrification and colourism were addressed through a Grime battle as the story unfolded.
Honest moment – I was being loud in the theatre. Clapping, cheering, laughing… (My laugh is unapologetically LOUD!) I told you… it isn’t just a play but a concert too. My perspective (despite it being through a man) was aired through DJ Viper and I really appreciated the inclusion I felt. What was also fantastic was Debris Stevenson came back with her perspective, which was valid and true. You see – the concept of right and wrong is well… a concept. At this stage in my spiritual journey I realise that most things are simply perspective. And so during their many battles we hear both sides, which was just beautiful! I loved it!
#Shout out to Wretch 32 and one of my favourite songs - Perspectives
Honest moment continued - I got so excited and was typing away, notes of what I loved during the performance, on my phone. Then the usher (assuming, I think that I was texting) asked me to put my phone away. I write this because she apologised afterwards, when she realised I was writing notes. Not to say I am 'right' to have my phone out but just to note (lol) the weird reverse power shift moment that occurred.
Does a Black Woman Reviewer get more notability?
I really enjoyed the song Different Worlds. Listen out for this song when you go and comment below your opinions. Especially on this song! I loved it!!
Now Poet in the Corner didn’t just deal with Race… and as we follow Dj Debris story - issues of religion, working class, abuse and sexuality are all addressed.
Suddenly, this White girl that I had pre-judged to begin with had so many similarities with my own experiences. One theory that I forgot about is the theory that “it’s a class war not a race one” – this theory started to tickle me as I watched, as I totally related and connected with her journey. The common ground of growing up with a very religious parent (in my case it was a grandparent), working in order to have a fighting chance to live a normal life, and the abuse that you obtain from loved ones that you then potentially pass on was… well… is what we had in common.
I felt her pain, loved her voice and was thoroughly entertained by the innuendos and nuances of life in London when (regardless of your skin tone) you actually grow up here!
There was a Grime song about passing trauma on and then on and then on… but I didn’t get to write down the title on my phone because the usher lady had told me to put it away… side eye (lol)!
Ok… Just in case the production doesn’t grab you with the inclusion of DJ Viper and his perspective.
Or by the fact that Debris Stevenson can actually chat the mic
Or even by the visual stimulation of scene changes (The stage transcends from a home, to a dancehall club, to outside in the park).
Direction ( #shout out to Miss Ola Ince) and Set
If none of those things grab you, the homage to Dizzee will.
Paying homage, giving shout outs, crediting the pioneers before you - is culturally something that hip hop and dance hall, the origins of grime music, have always done. And Poet in Da Corner does just that. It is basically Dj Debris tribute/ remix to Dizzee Rascal and his album Boy in da Corner.
I think, ultimately this is how you justify copying!
With a history of theatre productions and its directors not paying homage - this was refreshing and encouraging to witness. To further celebrate the iconic grime artist - a yellow corner was positioned in the corner of the Royal Court’s bar area and audience members were invited to take selfies… here’s mine :)
Book now, to not miss out on an iconic piece of Theatre/ Grime History – Poet in Da Corner.