Soweto Kinch  with Ricardo Da Silva  and Tyrone Isaac-Stuart  Picture: Graeme Braidwood

The Legend of Mike Smith

Birmingham REP

****

Birmingham-based musician Soweto Kinch’s frenetic staged performance of his double album is an inspired pick to launch the new Studio space shared by Birmingham Rep and Birmingham Library.

Kinch is high profile on the Birmingham arts scene while remaining edgy as a performer so is capable of appealing to a wide range of audiences.

And that mix of people is the perfect blend for this all-encompassing work inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins and Dante’s terrifying Inferno.

Choreographed by Jonzi  D and mixing narrative, dance, rap, comedy, music and projection, The Legend of Mike Smith is also packed full of social and political comment as well as being a meditation on human nature.

It centres around budding MC Mike Smith who is offered temptation in the shape of a recording deal which could bring him fame and riches – but at a price to his soul.

In one wild day, Mike experiences all of the Seven Deadly Sins, entering both his own Heaven and his own Hell, before he realises where true freedom lies.

It is a whirlwind of musical and theatrical experience as images collide, ideas pop and fizz and the audience is bombarded with sound, image and movement.

And in places it makes for uncomfortable viewing – not least when performers Ricardo da Silva, Tyrone Isaac-Stuart and Soweto take the audience on, goading us to think again about our own preconceptions and diving in to turn the spotlight on us.

There is so much going on in this 100-minute performance that I am sure I could watch it all again and come away with quite a different theatrical experience the second time around.

Kinch’s lyrics are spot on with bang-up-to-date references to just about everything under the sun from media moguls to subprime mortgages and twitter to trainers. But there were times when they were too fast for me to catch, leaving me feeling I need to read a lyric sheet to fully grasp the nettle.

There is little doubt of Soweto’s talent as a musician on saxophone and as a lyricist and rapper and this new performance of his music shows how much more can be done with an album when you add in staging and a lot of imagination. To 28-09-13.

Diane Parkes 

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