CamdenNewJournal

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Review: Poet in da Corner, at Royal Court Theatre

Explosive story of grime and growing up leaves no time to take a breath as Royal Court reaches out to a younger audience

06 February, 2020 — By Howard Loxton

Debris Stevenson, Stacy Abalogun and Kirubel Belay in Poet in Da Corner. Photo: Helen Murray

INSPIRED by Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner and drawing on her life experience, Debris Stevenson’s play charts growing up on the borders of east London and Essex in a drama that feels like a gig.

This academic, grime poet and dancer, plays the central character, taking us back to herself as an 11-year-old dyslexic schoolgirl with a strict Mormon mother and a brother at grammar school. She went to a sink school where, at 13 and bullied, she was given that CD by her schoolmate and music mentor SS Vyper.

It is grime and not God that saves her as she gains confidence, learns to let go and finds ways to deal with her conflict.

Things have hardly got going when a voice in the audience turns out to be Vyper (played by co-writer and grime MC Jammz). He’s complaining she’s pinched his lyrics, hijacked his story and is telling it wrong. A year older, Vyper becomes her partner in telling the story in rapid rap.

Ola Ince’s production keeps things simple with a clever use of a revolve, and Michael “Mikey J” Asante makes a big contribution as music director. Stacy Abalogun and Kirubel Belay play Debris’s mum, brother Tony and all the other parts in a 75-minute explosion that leaves no time to take breath.

This is the Royal Court reaching out to that younger audience, but for those who haven’t grown up with grime, the commitment and energy of Stevenson and her fellow performers is still irresistible and if you don’t get all the words you still get the emotion.

UNTIL FEBRUARY 22
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