Poejazzi performed Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in a 21st century version at Shoreditch’s Richmixx and it was banging, Aria Aber reviews…
Whenever I trot through London nightlife and somebody drags me to a spoken word event, I’m usually torn between wanting to kill myself or everyone else around me. It’s one of those things that can move you to tears when it’s good but is just unbearable when it’s bad, which it is most of the time. There is no in-between. However, luckily enough I decided to go and watch HOWL 2.0 at the Richmix in Shoreditch the other week – it was so good, I was almost moved to tears. A group of young creative performers, five poets, one actor and a jazz band, decided to re-imagine Allen Ginsberg’s infamous game-changing poem, Howl, and actually banged it. James Massiah, Jack Rooke, Cecillia Knapp, Kareem Parkins Brown and Rosie Knight all re-wrote different parts of Howl in their own language, while a whole jazz band played in the background to accompany & underline their dramatic verse dropping. The discussed topics didn’t change much. They are as relevant today as they were then: we still have drugs, poverty, homosexuality & a political abyss to gaze into.
Even though they were all very strong performers, two poets left me breathless. You could feel the vibrations raising within the intimate audience during their presence on stage. James Massiah, whose aura made his part resemble a concert more than a spoken word piece, blended in with the band and flooded the room with positive energy. And Rosie Knight proved power of language: her use of space imagery was actually compelling and innovative, the delivery was authentic and moving, and it didn’t do her any harm that the bassist decided to go absolutely mental while playing Tom Leaper’s score.
After the poet’s actor Dauda Ladejobi ascended the stage, who, without the band’s support, performed the original verse from heart. His stamina and the depth of his voice were flattering the poem, and even though he tripped over the words a couple of times, his presentation was convincing and emotionally charged.
The only thing that nagged us that night was the length: we would have wished it to be longer than the strict sixty minutes. It was so entertaining that we just didn’t want it to end.
I must say that I was surprised at the genius, the creative effort, and the positive, fresh and poised energy the performers (jazz band and all) exuded. I guess Allen Ginsberg would have approved. And I guess I’m going to be less cynical about spoken word.