Poet In Da Corner Is One To Rave About

Poet in da Corner, Royal Court ★★★★★

By James FitzGerald Last edited 53 months ago

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Last Updated 05 February 2020

Poet In Da Corner Is One To Rave About Poet in da Corner, Royal Court 5
Photo: Helen Murray

We may never know whether it's common practice for Mormon mums in Essex to waterboard their children with gallons of milk as a punishment, but that's the sort of bonkers thing seen in the Poet in da Corner. Debris Stevenson's semi-autobiographical show has its creator in the starring role: a teen who rejects her parents' oppressive religion but finds meaning in grime music. It's one of the most extraordinary things on the West End stage for years.

Tracks from Dizzee Rascal's 2003 debut album Boy in da Corner are reworked into Stevenson's coming-of-age story. Pinch yourself: it's a Royal Court rave. Stevenson persuaded the theatre to beef up its sound system for the original 2018 production. And on its revival, Poet in da Corner remains a fresh-sounding banger even as rap takes hold elsewhere in London theatre. Verse after verse is packed into an arresting hour which overtly states its claim for such lyrics to be held in the same regard as Shakespeare.

Photo: Helen Murray

Stevenson spits out bars in her fight for acceptance as a pansexual, but Poet in da Corner's tussles are not only personal. Grime star Jammz features as an MC; he kicks off the drama by springing from a seat and claiming his verses have been stolen. As the show's white figurehead, Stevenson is heard considering questions of cultural appropriation. Stevenson's restless co-stars (Kirubel Belay and Stacy Abalogun) counterpose the politics with exuberant dance; director Ola Ince has them hauling the audience to its feet with call-and-response chants. Stand up, look sharp — as Dizzee might put it.

Poet in da Corner, Royal Court, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS, from £12. Until 26 February then touring