If I had faith at all, I would chose to believe the poetry gods Adrian Mitchell and Roi Kwabena smiled down with delight and joy on what happened here in the middle lands of England on a cold January night. In a huge and cavernous, breezeblock grey space - usually reserved to make beautiful stage sets for main stage shows in the Birmingham Rep - they totally transformed the space for a cracking, one night only, show. With a huge lighting rig, mobile crane, drums and stages in each corner – and not forgetting four, huge spray can art works, Birmingham’s Mohammed Ali lit the space up with colour, passion and three energetic spoken word artists, the national poetry treasure - Dreadlock Alien, towering giant of spoken word and peace from New York -Amir Sulaiman and the feisty and undeniably foxy Zena Edwards.
Initially, as the sell out and undeniably YOUNG and BEAUTIFUL men and women of Birmingham shuffled in, no one quite knew what to expect. Director Jonzi Di free styled and revved the crowd up and then the lights when down and our spirits WHOOSHED UP! Amir Sulaiman towered, stood and spoke up in half prayer, half free style with a huge silhouetted tank behind him. Love was his theme, love was his deep voiced message and refrain as the lights softly faded on him and spun us round to the sound of Dreadlockalien, musing on unity and the power of three, then the lights fell and faded on him and we spun on our heels to hear Zena Edwards pluck her thumb piano and light up the metaphorical and perfectly literal black space of the room - and dark space in our hearts? Maybe. What I do know is the show segwayed round the room and an hour of energy, passion, nifty light-work and exuberant calls for unity and love spoke out, whizzed past and lit up our faces with joy. Especially when the poets stood up, breathed out, sprayed out their stories while Mohammed did the same with his simple, artful, spray can of paint. That was neat, that was rare – at least for most of us!
The poets, the ranters, the rappers the free stylers that have delighted us down the ages like Adrian Mitchell who spoke up for peace in Vietnam in the cavernous Albert Hall, the poet and storyteller Roi Kwabena that sang his songs for peace and love across the libraries and streets of Birmingham, they, like me, lift their voice and hat to that night of visual spectacle and verbal dexterity and love. It doesn’t come cheap, but when it does, boy does it work!
You can still see the show and the hugely impressive street art style art works by Mohammed Ali inside the Birmingham Rep – for a short while - but you’ll just have to take my simple, solo, word about that night in the middle lands where another vocal, street wise vibe added another tremor to that colossal Birminghum!
Adrian Johnson, Birmingham poet laureate, 2010. E. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Copyright) 22 January 2010