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Review: The Legend of Mike Smith at The Rep Studio

Peter Bacon reviews The Legend of Mike Smith at The Rep Studio.

The Legend of Mike Smith at The Rep Studio
****
Soweto Kinch at The Rep theatre, Birmingham
Soweto Kinch at The Rep theatre, Birmingham

Soweto Kinch’s first attempt at a fully-fledged theatrical vehicle for his highly individual hip hop-jazz succeeds in being both deadly serious and highly entertaining.

Soweto had always envisaged his most recent CD’s transformation to staged work, but it still took considerable adjustment to move it from an audial, repeatable, experience to a live performance which must convey its meaning in one go.

Does it achieve that? Largely, yes. The device of using three actors - the small, appealing Ricardo Da Silva, the more imposing Tyrone Isaac-Stuart, and Soweto himself, more caricaturist than the others - to take turns as the protagonist was highly effective. The dream sequences were conveyed much more efficiently due to the graphics displayed as a giant backdrop.

The freestyle rap, which took the form here of a comic assault on the audience, conveyed well the exhilarating nature of improvisation, and the brilliance of the MC’s verbal dexterity. The dance, movement and seamless blending of music and drama were all a joy.

What was more patchy was the effectiveness of this verbal and physical dexterity to clearly convey the story - Smith’s descent into madness via the seven deadly sins and his ultimate triumph over them. There are a lot of words in the original album and there are still too many in the play; their delivery occasionally sounded garbled; some movement sequences go on too long.

These are minor quibbles, though. For its energy, its creativity, and its originality, this play should be seen.

 
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