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Credit: Battersea Arts Centre
Credit: Battersea Arts Centre

Brand New Ancients, Royal Court – Review

Pros: Vivid, engrossing and truthful storytelling.

Cons: None. I can imagine that some people might feel that spoken word theatre doesn’t offer enough variety, but Kate captivated me for the entire length of her performance.

Pros: Vivid, engrossing and truthful storytelling. Cons: None. I can imagine that some people might feel that spoken word theatre doesn’t offer enough variety, but Kate captivated me for the entire length of her performance. Kate Tempest is a modern day Homer. Brand New Ancients, which she both wrote and performed, is an epic poem about the intertwined lives of two South London families. Her eighty-minute performance consists of a mixture of rap and rhythmically-spoken poetry. This was my first experience of spoken-word theatre, and I must confess I was sceptical that oral poetry alone could keep me engaged.…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

Kate Tempest is an intelligent and mesmerizing storyteller. Her unique brand of theatre is well worth seeing.

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Kate Tempest is a modern day Homer. Brand New Ancients, which she both wrote and performed, is an epic poem about the intertwined lives of two South London families. Her eighty-minute performance consists of a mixture of rap and rhythmically-spoken poetry. This was my first experience of spoken-word theatre, and I must confess I was sceptical that oral poetry alone could keep me engaged. I had had nothing to fear. I, and the rest of the audience, were rapt throughout her entire performance.

Unlike Homer, Kate is not interested in nobility, the rich and illustrious. Her epic focuses on the meek and lowly, and the dramas that take place on our doorstep. She is interested in human beings, their fears, insecurities, hope and dreams. There are no monsters, no shipwrecks, and yet the lives of these characters from the rougher parts of London are just as dramatic and meaningful as the wanderings of Odysseus. As Kate speaks, the themes of Greek tragedy – anger, lust betrayal, ambition – rise up.

Kate has a down-to-earth and tomboyish personality, but also a fragility; this combination make her an especially compelling stage presence. She is, above all else, an excellent writer who paints vivid pictures. I was invested in the fates of all the characters she created, characters that could not have felt more real to me if I were watching actors embody them. Her insight into their lives is intelligent and truthful.

Kate also receives excellent support from a fantastic four piece band consisting of percussion, cello, violin and tuba. The original score by Nell Catchpole creates an eerie and beautiful soundtrack to the epic.

We come to the theatre to hear stories, feel moved and to have our perspective on the world changed. Brand New Ancients does exactly these things and is a brilliant piece of theatre because of it.

Creator: Kate Tempest
Directorial Support: Ian Rickson
Booking Until: 16th November 2013 (on tour from January 2014)
More Information: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/brandnewancients

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