PROS: The thought and passion that went into the poetry was a pleasure to watch.
CONS: It was hard to avoid the slow pace of the dialogue once a slam poem was finished, it only ever picked up during the poetry.
I Stopped…when, tells the story of three young slam poetry contestants. The lives of Wren (Tom Nguyen), Naya (Nicole Acquah) and Adele (Lauren La Rocque) are all intertwined; they face ongoing battles due to their identities and the wrath of the outside world and their only way to deal with these struggles is by channelling it into their poetry.
In the underground, with the rumbling of trains overhead and the exposed brick wall, really couldn’t be a better setting for this play. With a venue as unique as the Vaults the vibe this gave off was very aesthetically pleasing and complimented the piece.
Acquah is a very talented poet; her writing was almost too personal to intrude upon, it really felt as if I was entering her thought and her world, with the poetry being its strengthening moments. It was raw, it was real. The tales of interfaith relationships, conflicting identities and conforming to societal expectations were well thought through and beautifully executed by all three actors. Each poem varied in flow and tempo and style. There was no bit of poetry that was weak or fell flat. It came from the heart and that was very clear to see. The simple lighting complimented this also; you can never go wrong with a single spot light. The projection of the names of the poems onto the wall was a great touch.
These slam poems were broken up at regular intervals with dialogue from the three poets, set in the backstage ‘green room’. The breakaways however were quite weak and lacked pace and tempo compared with the poetry. When the poets lay their souls bare in their poetry, I felt a deep connection with them, but that connection was soon lost by their dialogue and the lack of depth in the script for the characters to be well rounded. The second half was more complex and definitely flowed better; maybe getting to know the characters over a short space of time forced me to get to know them on a personal level? But however, for a short 60 minute play the dialogue dragged, it was long and bulky and was rarely broken up by a simple pause, a change in gesture or staging.
The heart of this piece lies within the poetry. The intimacy that comes along with it is incomparable. Camaraderie and beauty can be seen in the last poem in which all three actors perform together. With more work on the dialogue and better character development this show could definitely be one to watch.
Writer: Nicole Acquah
Director: Dorcas A. Stevens
Producer: Kate Cotruvo
Booking Until: This play has ended its run at Vault Festival