Run It Back at Hackney Showroom
Talawa Theatre – the UK’s leading platform presenting shows from emerging black actors and artists – kick-starts its latest performance, Run It Back, with a spoken word piece by Jasmine L Jones. Breathtaking in exposition and originality, the production combines song and poetry to divulge into musical genres spanning decades. From Nas’s Illmatic and The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight to Shakespeare’s sonnets, Sir Walter Raleigh and John Donne, the artist captivates in her exploration of music’s roots and the connections it has with its linguistic counterpart, literature.
Following the first act are ten young artists and writers in a performance directed by Coral Messam and written by Ashlee EL Roberts and Dzifa Gazo. With the stage set up as a disused warehouse – complete with strung-up police tape – the first to appear on the scene are a gleeful-looking Esmonde Edgar Cole and solemn Buky Victoria Esan, who clear the floor, ripping down the cautionary signs.
The show then takes a surprising turn, with the remaining ensemble appearing perched on rigs, hyped and dancing. After resident DJ Conrad Kira is wheeled in, the room becomes enveloped in a frenzied rave; from summery Aphro-beats to classic bass-popping grime. Messam’s direction uses authentic movement within a club setting, with the music perfectly generating the dance vibes and atmosphere. There is no individual story here as in a typical theatre show, but instead, the actors relate their experiences of being black through the deconstruction of music and choreography. Not only commenting on other people’s perceptions of their race, but also their own, the collective reveal in one segment how mixed-race individuals can be made to feel vulnerable and alone, when black communities don’t see them as black enough and white communities don’t perceive them as white, related with pathos by actor Simeon Blake-Hall. There is humour too, like when the women start grinding on the men, shouting “F*ck the patriarchy!” – tired of being physically harassed and roughed around on the dance floor – and during another defining highlight when DJ Conrad takes to the stage and breaks out big moves to Madonna’s Holiday.
Tonight’s piece is relevant to anyone who has ever been clubbing or raving, commenting on the disparate male and female experiences. Opening up conversations around complex issues such as the wearing of wigs, protecting each other in public dance spaces, embracing black culture and emboldening one another, Run It Back defines the rave culture scene, simultaneously realising the British Black experience without condescension, making it one of this summer’s must-see immersive theatre shows.
Photo: Sanaa Abstrakt
Run It Back is at Hackney Showroom from 29th August until 31st August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.