Percussion. Rhythm. Sound. A voice.
Writer Kristiana Rae Colón and director Nadia Latif are reunited after the success of their 2012 Arcola play ‘but I cd only whisper’. With a sold out performance behind them, Octagon promises a great many things.
Set in an any downtown poetry slam scene, eight promising poets fight for the right to be heard. Each has a unique and interesting tale to tell, and delivers poetry individual to their own sound.
The focus for them is Octagon, the ultimate poetry slam competition, which is swiftly approaching. The team finds themselves one member short, leading to a poetry slam audition process in their local bar. Four poets compete for a coveted place in the team with poetry that is compelling and relevant to the setting. Behind the scenes, however, tensions are soaring. Love triangles, the never ending struggle to feed your family, old wounds are ripped open and new ones to make.
Prism (Lara Rossi) is our central character; worlds collide, crash and burn around her. A woman who plays by her own rules, creates her own belief system. Prism is a character of raw sexual energy, and many of her scenes show her engaged in explicit sexual activity. Lara Rossi is an excellent, promising young actress, though the character of Prism fails to excite. Prism fails in rising above the tired old trope of the strong woman with a tragic past whose ultimate downfall is her sexuality.
Jericho (Crystal Condie) is a severely underrated character. Stationed in the chorus until her poetry reading, her poem blew me away. Addressing Miley Cyrus in a letter from Malala, Jericho compares the persecution she faced to that which Miley faces from the paparazzi. She asks Miley to enjoy the freedom she has as it has come at the cost of others before her. This was the standout moment of the night, and her words are still resonating with me.
The three men of the group are all completely different but harmonise well. Chad (Harry Jardine) is reminiscent of a young Marshall Mathers, and can rap with the best of them. He is more quiet and thoughtful than the others, and his quiet nature is striking compared to the chaos that surrounds him. Palace (Asnan N’Jie) is the joker, the man that will never quite grow up. His poem Close but no Cigar, talks about life as a ‘black’ man and his vulnerability to harassment from the law. Chimney (Soloman Israel) is the self-professed captain of the group, and does his best to keep law and order within his group. Soloman is an excellent choice as Chimney and he contributes to the growth of the role expertly.
The countless hours of rehearsals show in this play. The actors finish each other’s sentences seamlessly, creating a diverse narration. There is no questioning the undeniable talent that is found in the Octagon cast. It still requires some polishing to be considered great. The show started almost fifteen minutes late, and overran. There was an occasional trip over the words, however the cast carried on without pause. It was a crowd favourite, and I will look forward to seeing how Octagon develops in the future.
Review by Lisa Shaw
Supporting Wall in association with Tabula Rasa Theatre presents OCTAGON
by Kristiana Rae Colón
Sep 16 2015 – Oct 17 2015
After Wall Street and Tahrir Square, after ISIS and the NSA, after Ferguson and Eric Garner: here come the poets.
In a downtown poetry slam eight young poets prepare to do battle. Personal stories and political struggles collide with a place on the team up for grabs. But in the end is it about winning, or finding the words that need to be said?
This unique ensemble performance fuses the frenetic energy of a live poetry gig with a heartfelt cry of protest from contemporary America. Fearless, compelling and utterly original, OCTAGON reunites director Nadia Latif with award-winning poet, playwright and activist Kristiana Rae Colon of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, alongside a stunning soundscape from Olivier Award-nominated composer Simon Slater (Constellations).
Directed by Nadia Latif
Designer Lorna Ritchie
Lighting Christopher Nairne
Sound/Composer Simon Slater
Costume Holly Rose Henshaw
Casting Advisor Annelie Powell
Cast: Lara Rossi, Crystal Condie, Estella Daniels, Martins Imhangbe, Solomon Israel, Harry Jardine, Leemore Marrett Jr and Asan N’Jie.
24 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes approximately (including interval).
Wednesday 23rd September 2015