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A Whole Heap of Rhymes that I Wrote:

The terrible tale of a novelist who wishes she was a rapper.

 I have a new addiction, and it’s Spoken Word. Watching it, not performing it.  I went to Shake the Dust a few weeks ago, and saw a whole slew of amazing young talent opening for one of my favourites, Kate Tempest, and the legendary Saul Williams.

I’ve never been to a spoken word gig like that. They’re usually small, in dingy back rooms of pubs in East London, with a bit of an electric atmosphere if they’re good, or a bit of a dead goldfish if not. But this was at The Southbank Centre, and the whole Shake the Dust community had the feel of true Slam: competition, support and general love and appreciation for the art form.

I’ve always felt a bit wary of spoken word, as there’s such a great variety of form and quality. I edge closer towards the rap-style poetry, from people like Kate Tempest, Dizraeli and Akala. I’m much more wary of the comedic type (although I’ve definitely come around to it) and I am very, very wary of the ‘white middle class girl waxing poetical about her problems’ (which is what I would be if I tried this).

After seeing a…questionable line-up at Wychwood Fest, where the amazing stand out artist of the night was Dreadlock Alien (who also teaches spoken word workshops in schools) and then catching a bunch of workshops at Larmertree Festival, I’ve realised: I really wish I could do this. But spoken word is not just about getting the words on the page, about editing and stripping down and telling a story. It’s about tone and voice and volume and passion, and stage presence. It’s a lot more like acting than I’m comfortable with. I’d much rather let my page talk for me. Although…I do talk really fast.

I write some rap-type poems, and I think I’ll keep doing so, hopefully catching a slam workshop at some point. But for now, why don’t you enjoy some of my favourite spoken word pieces:

 

 

 

P.S Spoken Word Poets that I know- please Big Up yourselves in the comment box, and post your twitter/blogs/videos, right? Good!

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A Review: Kate Tempest’s Wasted

Here’s the thing: I’m kind of scared of theatre. I’m also scared of ballet, opera and East London clubs populated by Hip Young Things. So when the actors came out onto the stage and admitted that maybe it was a bit weird for a bunch of people to sit in a small room watching other people pontificate about their lives, I felt relieved.

 

I will also admit that I booked a ticket (and made all my nearest and dearest book tickets) because I saw the words ‘Kate Tempest’. After seeing one of Kate’s spoken word sets last year, I’m convinced she’s so painfully talented that it might be a crime. I’m a writer, I get words. But I don’t get how she does it. I can’t even explain it properly here, that’s how much words escape me.

So, a summary of the play: Three twenty-somethings Charlotte, Danny and Ted get together on the anniversary of their friend’s death, trying to work out why their lives make them so miserable.

That makes it sound depressing, and whilst living as a debt-riddled graduate in one of the best cities in the world did make me relate, it’s more about an entire generation of people trying to drown their sorrows, because realising you lost your dreams via nine-to-fives and paying rent is just too depressing.

It’s also ridiculously funny, mainly because it just rings true. One of my friends who saw the play said she so rarely felt like the target market for the things she went to see, but in this case, well, the characters were us. I could point out at least five different experiences I’ve had, and Ted kept bizarrely morphing into one of my friends as he danced his arse off and played with glowsticks.

This was a play for us, about our lives in London, and I’m pretty sure everyone in that theatre felt the same way. The people who are nostalgic for being thirteen and thinking everything was possible. The people who spend all their time in the same relationships, with the same memories until you’re constantly repeating ‘what a night, man, what a night!’ on a loop, because there’s nothing else to say.

Wasted reminded me of one of my favourite films, Human Traffic, except better because it was set in London, here and now. Even easier to relate to. This city spits you up and then expects you to cling to the walls of your shitty overpriced flat because everywhere else is just not as good. The only downside was this play was not also a film, because I wanted to watch it again, so that I could truly take the time to appreciate the lyricism. There were certain lines that I just wanted to write down and remember, but you were so busy being drawn into the story that it was hard to focus on just one thing.

Lyrically, the play was a success, using Tempest’s clear talent for rhythm, but also just an understanding of people and character. The actors were excellent, drawing you in, loving them because you see yourself and everyone you love living out their lives. Staging was perfect, simple, but the use of filmed images of the actors, as well as the lighting and visuals was just…excellent.

I know reviews are supposed to be balanced, and I’m usually a master of criticism, but I cannot find one thing wrong with it. Except that it was the last night and I want to watch it again.

 

Another brilliant thing was that I randomly met Kate Tempest in the queue for the bathroom before the show, and managed to have a normal conversation like a normal person, instead of the painfully eager fangirl that I naturally become when faced with talented people I look up to. And as much as we all love to say ‘oh, they’re so modest’, I was actually kind of surprised at how Kate was rather unsure of herself, and so pleased The Roundhouse took a chance on her.

It highlighted, once again, that we’re all just artists, trying to create and get by. There are probably people out there who are as talented as Kate Tempest (well…maybe), but never had the guts to try something they’ve never done before. And that’s sad. Because this foray into new territory was one of the best creative pieces I’ve seen in years, and possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen in the theatre.

 

And if you can’t understand the utter terror at the idea of walking around IKEA for four hours on a comedown, then you are clearly not of our people, and should probably go back to a posh East London club, where you belong.