Combining mesmerising delivery and provocative, imagery-rich lyrics, spoken word is poetry’s more dynamic younger cousin – and for many, it’s also an important outlet for speaking up in a world overrun with fake news. We’re celebrating four stars from the capital’s hotbed of homegrown artists who, luckily for us, are performing here in the coming months.
Sabrina Mahfouz at Clapham Omnibus, Tue Mar 28
Sabrina Mahfouz, raised between London and Cairo, is a multi-talented spoken word artist, having written plays, screenplays and librettos. Her recent collection of poetry, called ‘How You Might Know Me’, follows the bleak day-to-day realities of four sex workers, confronting the audience with taboos and powerful truths, inspired by Mahfouz’s time spent waitressing in London strip clubs where she used to scribble down notes on pieces of till receipt. Her rhyme and flow are a joy to watch live, with witty lyrics that everyone can relate to, showcased in ‘Toilet Break’ and ‘Red Raving Hood’. The event is now sold out, but you can put your name on the waiting list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Tempest at O2 Academy Brixton, Sat May 27
If you’re just beginning to discover the wonderful world of spoken word, Kate Tempest is a good starting point. The Brockley native has made a seamless transition from open mic nights to BBC2 live performances and a critically-acclaimed debut play, ‘Wasted’, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of the UK’s Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes Award in the process. Don’t miss the chance to watch the voice of a disgruntled, #BoredOfItAll generation showcase her new album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, where she pulls no punches with her 2015 scathing attack on modern society in ‘Europe is Lost’.
Raymond Antrobus at The Last Word Festival, Wed May 31
Hackney-bred Antrobus is co-curator of the regular Chill Pill evening, which combines up-and-coming spoken art talent and veterans of the scene. In his work he intimately shares his experiences as a D/deaf person with lines such as ‘deaf voices go missing like sound in space and I have left earth to find them’ in his poem Dear Hearing World. At the Last Word Festival at the Roundhouse, Antrobus will be joined by other writers and disability activists seeking to empower D/deaf and disabled poets whose talents are often overlooked.
Inua Ellams at the National Theatre, Mon Jun 19
Is there anything that Inua Ellams can’t do? Having moved to London aged 12, Ellams is a poet, playwright, performer and graphic artist. When asked why he became a poet, he mentioned not being able to afford paint. This never prevented him from painting vivid pictures through traditional storytelling and metaphors, which has seen him be described as the love child of Mos Def and John Keats. His work often tackles hard-hitting subjects, such as the vilification of the word immigrant, aiming to make these topics ‘beautiful regardless of how ugly or difficult’ they are. On June 19, he’ll be discussing his new play Barbershop Chronicles.
Love theatre? Check out our reviews of the latest shows in town.