Mark Grist: Rogue Teacher at the Roundhouse
Mark Grist’s journey from secondary school teacher to spoken word artist and YouTube sensation is an interesting one, not least because of the missteps and rap battles in between. As the self-proclaimed Rogue Teacher of his show’s title, Grist left his career as an English teacher to try and pursue his love of words more directly as a poet, and it’s these stages of his life, along with the inadvertent rap battles that brought him to the public’s attention, that make up the majority of this show.
Grist’s tale is punctuated by his poetry, which at its best adds emotional clarity to the tale he tells so enthusiastically. The poems themselves range from the endearingly ridiculous lyrics of his rap battles to slightly overly sincere pieces in which he attempts to rail against authority. But the hit and miss nature of his poetry detracts little from the overall show.
The YouTube clip that shot Grist to fame, in which the besuited “Count of Monty Gristo” faces up to the 17-year-old “Blizzard” is mulled over at length. In his defence, Grist references the importance of setting restraints in poetry, which is why, for one round, he spoke only about Blizzard’s poor mum. In the end however, he spends so long dissecting his misogyny that you can’t help but agree with Blizzard’s mum when she calls him a bit of a drama queen.
The broad term “spoken word artist” is far more suitable than poet for the Rogue Teacher, who is mostly in line with the likes of Dave Gorman or Danny Wallace. Like them, Grist tells stories with enthusiasm and without artifice, provoking laughter through empathy rather than punchlines. Anecdotes are always relatable, particularly those regarding his successes and failures in education at his school in Peterborough. As entertaining as he is, Grist seems so passionate about his students and about English that you can’t help but think he’d have made a better English teacher.
Joe Manners Lewis
Mark Grist: Rogue Teacher is at the Roundhouse until 27th May 2014, for further information about tour dates or to book visit here.
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