Kanye the First at The Mix, WalthamstowCultureTheatre
What if Kanye West’s reincarnation is a middle-class white woman? Playwright Sam Steiner imagines this scenario in his first commission, Kanye the First, at its world premiere for the HighTide Festival.
Annie (Imogen Doel) takes care of her sick mother (Caroline Faber), while her smart sister, Evie (Keziah Joseph), travels the world and raises high her ambitions. Celebrities couldn’t be closer than through the screen of a mobile phone. One day, though, Kanye West dies and the morning after, Annie is Kanye – or, better, it looks like the body of the singer has taken possession of the woman, for a second coming of the king. The protagonist makes several attempts to make everyone understand it’s her trapped inside, but the world takes over and the rapper is back to the show biz, although with his/her head in Britain, and the family now left confused.
Entering the tent of The Mix looks like a move into a mystical place, with fog everywhere, creaking stalls, and a light smell of incense. As soon as the play starts, the misty atmosphere gives way to dramatic lights, dynamic scene changes and tense sounds.
The story is blended with technology, not so much into the script, rather into the settings. Projected footage and stills from the news and history, rapidly following one another, create an immediate visual connection between Britain and the States. The two countries, in theory so far away, are indeed now united in a single body: Annie’s. The multimedia solutions together with other abstract artistic decisions, allow the piece to focus on the human relationships and the non-existent connections between us and those who are stars.
The production is minimalist; characters and props on the stage distantly resemble what they are supposed to be, leaving it to the audience’s imagination to project the face and the glitter onto the real state of things. The approach works nicely, often producing hilarious sketches. It doesn’t reach the highest impact, though, because of the many pauses and slowing pace of the script, which doesn’t quite deliver on an anticipated climax. The dialogues, from witty and fast, become monologues that reason over celebrity, representation and identity.
Caroline Faber flawlessly switches from one character to another, delighting the audience also with a short stand-up-like moment. Daniel Francis-Swaby brilliantly animates the scene, while Doel and Joseph don’t shy away from impersonating two of the most talked about personalities: Kanye and Kim.
Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown
Kanye the First is at The Mix as part of the HightTide Festival 2017 Walthamstow from 26th September until 7th October 2017. For further information or to book visit the HighTide Festival website here.