THE LEGEND OF MIKE SMITH: Soweto King
Birmingham Rep, The Studio
Runs: 1h 30m, no interval, till 28 September
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 16 09 13
Unusual, intriguing, moving.
Soweto Kinch’s creation is a moving hybrid theatre performance, straddling play, dance, jazz. It’s small (just a handful of performers) yet it feels big. Kinch’s form enables him to present a powerful allegory; it’s a bit like a 21st Century PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, with the religion taken out and real life put in. It’s very clever, engaging, witty.
The show draws on a rich history of performance; jazz is clearly to the fore (Kinch is a jazz saxophonist) with urban culture – the show is choreographed by the talented Jonzi D, who’s Artistic Director of the fabulous, groundbreaking BREAKIN’ CONVENTIONS. But there are many other echoes – fantasy games, Greek myth, classic opera (very witty) to name but a few.
In a nutshell, a young spoken word artist receives a phone call from the ominously named Cerberus Records – it’s a chance of a life-time offer but he has to come up with a commercially acceptable track within 24 hours. The show demonstrates his struggle with identity, truth, artistic honesty, signified by his attempts to obtain a microphone. So it’s simple and profound.
This is a splendidly, strong company of young men. Ricardo Da Silva leads as the young man. His performance is remarkable; his physicality and dance demand our attention 100 per cent, yet he offers us, too, a naïveté and vulnerability so that, even within this unusual form, we really care about him.
Very occasionally clarity slips, and if the opportunity arises The Voice of the Sage might be redone for clarity.
Kinch’s writing is sharp and witty, and musically accomplished; the group of musicians rise to the task. There’s a gorgeous food song in the commercial pressures section. The ending, in which the voice artists perform suddenly and tellingly without microphones, is strong: ‘Get ready . . . Freedom time’.
Musicians and Performers: Shane Forbes, Nick Jurd, Soweto Kinch, Ricardo Da Silva, Tyrone Isaac-Stuart
Johnathan Owen as The Sage
Director / Choreographer: Jonzi D
Visual Artist: Nat Jones
Dramaturg: Tessa Walker
Stylist / Costume Designer: Mimi Fresh
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond
Sound Designer: Dan Hoole
Design Associate: Olly Shapley
Illustration: Daniel Isles and Soweto Kinch