Poet in da Corner

Posted by Laurence Green

Debris Stevenson's energetic coming of age tale Poet in da Corner is a heady mix of grime music, physicality, dance and biographical, if fractured storytelling. Laurence Green reviews.

Poet in da Corner

Step into a technicolour world where music, dance and the spoken word collide and discover how grime music allowed writer/performer /lyricist/dancer Debris Stevenson to rediscover herself in the 75-minute coming-of-age drama Poet in da Corner (Royal Court Theatre Downstairs), directed by Ola Ince.

In a semi-autobiographical narrative, Stevenson tells of her upbringing in a strict Mormon family in Ilford and how hearing Dizzee Rascal's seminal album Boy in da Corner suddenly gave the bullied, dyslexic teenage girl meaning to everything. At university, she studied the "flow patterns " of Byron and Shakespeare, but grime music 2gave me permission to exist". Debris gradually finds her way into real life, significantly influenced by her first real friend SS Vyper (moodily played on-stage by the co-writer Jammz). The pairing work well together especially when they become duelling rappers competing for verbal and intellectual supremacy.

A combination of grime, physicality, dance and biographical, if fractured storytelling (we learn about her life in piecemeal dramatic fashion). Stevenson's story is one of rage and trauma, but also comedy. The show touches on Mormonism, working-class culture, critical race theory and the evolution of the grime music scene although I feel the play and characterisation would have benefitted from being fleshed out in greater detail.

Stevenson's high-octane musical pays homage to the music that influenced her and the talented writer and performer, along with music director Michael "Mikey J" Asante, has reworked some of the numbers from the original album with her own lyrics and those fierce, fast barrages of words, with their tongue-twisting rhyming couples intersect, the spoken passages.

Ideas of cultural appropriation and personal betrayal come into focus before this short, sharp show finishes on a note of euphoric celebration.

This poet may not be to everyone's taste but there is no denying that the piece is performed with great gusto and fizzing choreography, while established fans of grime music scene will need no further recommendation.

Poet in da Corner

Runs until Saturday 6 October at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs.

Box office: 020 7565 5000

 

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