Is Dizzee Rascal a modern day Shakespeare? Perhaps for some. For poet and protagonist Debris Stevenson, the artist’s debut album Boy in da Corner was a gateway to grime, away from classic literature and family traditions.
A desire to break the mould is what makes Poet in da Corner so daring, punchy and confident in terms of story and staging. Within minutes the audience is suitably warmed up with a club party, before the show is temporarily stopped due to a heckler in the crowd (Debris’ friend, Vyper – played by co-creator Jammz).
Vyper’s comments about his story, and struggling to find something which ‘speaks to him’ underpins Debris’ tale as one based upon exploration. In 80 minutes the lyricist immerses herself in a new musical culture, questions her Mormon upbringing and reflects on her sexuality (subtly but smartly represented in lighting designer Anna Watson’s warm, multi-coloured hues). For a handful of audience members, including myself, Poet in da Corner may present itself as an education – a fiery introduction to an art form.
While honest and autobiographical, Debris’s narrative, delivered with an impressive lyricism, soon becomes Vyper’s tale to tell. Having been particularly drawn to the idea of Debris choosing between her Mum’s Mormon faith and grime (Mum being played with soft humour and affection by Cassie Clare), realising in its conclusion that the story is instead framed around Vyper’s friendship with Debris was abrupt and underwhelming. It may well be an acknowledgement, however, of his role in shaping Debris as an individual, but in touching upon several ideas in a search for discovery, the play’s potential buzz is somewhat lost amongst the noise.
Poet in da Corner is now playing at the Royal Court until 22 February.
Disclaimers: I was invited to watch Poet in da Corner for free in exchange for a review of the performance. I did not receive payment for this review. All opinions stated are honest and my own.
As a mildly deaf theatre critic, I occasionally encounter difficulties when following a production. For this production, music is a big part of the show and I can find it hard to make out lyrics in songs. As such, I struggled to hear and understand aspects of the play, and this has been reflected in the review.