Theatre | Brand New Ancients – fierce and electric spoken word

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Image: Kate Tempest

Kate Tempest’s spoken word epic takes its audience on an intense journey, exploring the influence that love, hatred and regret play in creating modern day heroes, villains and victims. Intricately designed lighting and music (composed by Nell Catchpole and consisting of percussion, tuba, cello, violin and electronics) collaborate in unison to complement the poetry, which is characterised by dramatic changes in pace and ferocity.

Tempest draws on her own background, as evidenced by her captivating South London twang, with most of the poem following the intertwining narratives of two South London families, and the heart-wrenching plights that their members face, focusing primarily on two half-brothers who are unaware of each others’ existence. The social criticism throughout is self-evident and persuasive. The overarching message: don’t disregard the heroes of ancient myths and teachings just because they are from another time and had different obstacles to overcome.

It is the act of overcoming our obstacles, not the nature of the obstacles, which binds humanity of all eras. The heroes and gods of the modern day are all around us: The man in the supermarket Trying to keep his kids out of his trolley Or the woman by the postbox Struggling with her brolly, Every single person has a purpose in them burning, Look again Allow yourself to see them. Tempest’s performance is sharp and meaningful, and it is impossible to lose attention as she displays her emotions: her hand quivers and grabs at her t-shirt in reaction to the tragic stories rolling off her tongue. On top of consistent humour, rhyme and a range of other poetic techniques, Tempest has a descriptive clarity which places the scenes in front of the viewer, painting them as vividly as images on screen and lodging them in the memory. Her stamina is tireless, suffering no lapses in the hour-long performance, and her styles diverse, ranging from elegant poetry to fierce rapping, and occasional melodic song.

An intense, unique and moving experience. Brand New Ancients is produced by The Battersea Arts Centre and continues its tour over March and April with shows in Brighton and London.

Tom MacPherson

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