Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Kate Tempest’

Review: Glasshouse by Kate Tempest 28/02/13

In Interactive Literature, Performance Poetry on March 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

– reviewed by Karl Niklas

glasshouse

Glasshouse, written by Kate Tempest, is a piece of forum theatre produced by Cardboard Citizens. It is currently touring hostels and various other venues and their next public showcase is at Rich Mix this coming Saturday 16th of March.

The worlds of performance poetry and forum theatre seldom meet, which is, to me at the very least, a little surprising. Both styles and art forms look to ask the questions that one often dares not ask, empowering both the audience and a performer with truths in the most unique of ways, and both certainly seek to challenge.

Those unfamiliar with Forum should know that once the main action of the play has finished, the designated ‘Joker’ or facilitator encourages the audience to make comments on the action, find moments where the action could be altered by characters making a different choice, and then bringing that audience member out to replace the actor and improvise the scene in this different direction.

This permission to voice truthful concerns plays neatly into the company’s choice to employ a performance poet as a playwright. Kate Tempest, the current ‘what’s hot’ in acceptable urban street culture, perhaps best known for her viral poem ‘My Shakespeare’, has penned a script that neatly combines and reconciles these art forms. Her style and voice come through most clearly during the impromptu monologues, though it must be said that on occasions her authorial voice cuts in too clearly, leaving the audience well aware that they are quite literally hearing someone else’s words in the characters’ mouths. The pointed ‘two fingers rap gesture’ even made a mild appearance.

The poems on their own paint a picture of nights unwanted, disorientated figures struggling the streets with nowhere to turn. Her style is classic performance poetry, dropped word endings, half rhymes and off beat rhythms, very much in the style of the New York scene, but bringing her English twists and idioms to the fold.

These aside, the actors handle Tempest’s script with aplomb, shifting roles with ease, making a whirlwind of the characters (please excuse) tempestuous lives. The play runs at a breakneck pace, perhaps a little conscious of the time limit needed for the full forum experience, and the need to fit in the three viewpoints that ultimately inform the scene that descends our heroine into homelessness.

Though the styles are neatly combined on the whole, whether the story itself is open enough for Forum is a different matter entirely. While there are obvious and fairly succinct moments that should be altered to make Jess’ life better, Tempest’s plot line is so neatly wrapped up that it feels like there is little room to move for those willing participants that come up from the audience.

This said, it is indeed an interesting experience to have the audience so involved in affecting the action. Ultimately the show works towards providing those audience members from the hostel with an experience that may have elements that reflect their own story, and the chance to help inform the characters will reinforce the knowledge of the real world services that work with the homeless.

Cardboard Citizens have created a wonderful show, filled with engrossing, chameleonic performances, most notably the fragile mother portrayed with a sublime and subtle frailty by Jo Allitt. In spite of the brilliant and charismatic Joker Terry O’Leary making her facilitating presence well known, the play itself falls short of the mark as a life changing piece of forum, but succeeds as a tightly knit drama that is performed with skill. It just never felt like we as the audience could change enough to make a real difference.

a picture of nights unwanted, disorientated figures struggling the streets

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Top Spoken Word Moments of 2012

In Festival, Performance Poetry, Seasonal/End of year on February 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

– listed by James Webster

As the year is (fairly) recently ended and a new one begun, it seems a reasonable (ok, fairly late) time to round up some of the Spoken Word events and reviews that have made this such a successful year for Sabotage.

Top 5 Most Viewed

1. Edinburgh Coverage – by far and away the most viewed Spoken Word reviews were from Sabotage’s coverage of the Edinburgh Fringe. You can find them here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 part 1, Day 4 part 2, Day 5, Day 6 part 1, Day 6 part 2, Day 7 part 1, Day 7 part 2. Phew, that was a lot of reviews: special mention should go to the most viewed day featuring: Ben Mellor’s ‘Anthropoetry’, Lucy Ayrton’s ‘Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry’ and Phill Jupitus’s ‘Porky the Poet – 27 Years On’

2. Hammer & Tongue National Slam Final!  – a wealth of poets competing from all over the UK with Adam Kammerling emerging as the worthy winner and UK National Slam Champion.

3. WASTED – by Kate Tempest – Tempest’s first play blended theatre and poetry into a heady intoxication of words.

4. The Stoke Newington Literary Festival – a bevy of events, speakers and performers all descending on Stoke Newington in a myriad of Literary goodness.

5. Edinburgh International Women’s Day All-Female Slam – a brilliant idea to promote female poets in the Spoken Word scene in a medium still dominated by men.

My Personal Top 5

On a more subjective note, here are a few of the events that I’ve most enjoyed this past year.

1. Nth Entities by Anna Le and Phil Manzanera – I’ve long been an Anna Le fan, and hearing her complexly evocative language soaring around Manzanera’s dizzying guitar created a unique duet of words and music.

2. Hammer & Tongue Oxford: Valentine’s Day Slam featuring Dizraeli and Superbard – Sabotage didn’t actually review this one, but it was a phenomenal evening of wordplay, love and gorgeousness. Dizraeli’s set was stupefying in its verbal ingenuity and poignancy, while Superbard’s interactive love story was a monument to his storytelling prowess and creativity.

3. Once Upon a Time in Space by the Mechanisms – an event of storytelling and music, twisting well-known fairytales into a dark sci-fi setting that frightened and delighted.

4. Dirty Great Love Story by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna – full of memorable characters, hilarious wordplay, and all tied together by the charming performances of two outstanding poets.

5. Word Wrestling Federation Presents: Page Match 2 – bringing together my love of poetry and professional wrestling in a way I didn’t think possible. For all its flaws, this night was great fun; full of posturing, put-downs, poetry and larger-than-life performances.

Top Website for Self-Publishers Award

In Website on December 1, 2012 at 7:07 pm

-We interrupt the usual broadcast with Claire Trévien

We were delighted to find out today that Sabotage Reviews was nominated by members of The Alliance for Independent Authors for their Top Website for Self-Publishers Award. Here is the shiny badge they gave us for it:

topwebsite

Also nominated and worth a look were:

  1. World Literary Café http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/
  2. Lindsay www.lindsayburoker.com
  3. Louisa Locke http://mlouisalocke.co
  4. Rachel Abbott http://www.rachel-abbott.com/
  5. David Gaughran http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/
  6. http://www.bragmedallion.com/
  7. www.janefriedman.com
  8. www.IndiePENdents.org
  9. Joanna The Creative Penn http://www.thecreativepenn.com/

It’s also been wonderful to be name-checked in the Guardian recently by Dan Holloway, who recommends us (along with the fab  htmlgiant and 3:am) as a good place to find out about exciting self-published work (as well as ‘chapbooks, zines and true one-offs’: our favourite things! Send us more of those to review please!)

In this spirit, I have plunged into our archives and come up with eight recommendations of works that can be categorized as ‘self-published’, each interesting in its own right, but please, make use of the comment box to expand this.

I found this task harder than I expected, partly as we have not systematically tagged works as ‘self-published’, partly because Sabotage is so invested in indie enterprises that it is hard to know where to draw the line. I have mostly limited it to works produced and written by the same author. I probably pushed the boundaries by also including an edited work in the selection but it is such a one-off published by Claire Askew’s one-woman micropress that it seemed churlish not to. Some of these reviews have aged better than others, and it was sorely tempting to edit out sentences patting self-publishing on the back for being almost as good their ‘professionally’ printed counterparts. What I have come to appreciate in the two and a half years of Sabotage’s existence is that yes, while self-publishing can equate work of dubious quality, it can also be a veritable treasure trove of unique and exciting ventures, and I hope that we bring more of the latter to light in years to come.

Let’s all remember that fabulous China Miéville quotation:

‘We piss and moan about the terrible quality of self-published books, as if slews of god-awful crap weren’t professionally expensively published every year’

Living Room Stories by Andy Harrod. Extract from Rory O’Sullivan’s review: ‘What a collection this is. It would be no exaggeration to say that I have not taken pleasure out of a reading ‘experience’ quite like this before. I think that this was helped by reading each story aloud while listening to the corresponding piece from Arnalds’ collection. Harrod’s work should be regarded as a new form that calls on influences from literature, poetry and music. This project is a stunning marriage of the three, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.’

Muses Walk by Christodoulos Makris. Extract from Rishi Dastidar’s review: ‘the notion of the street as a muse is artfully explored through these sixteen poems, and Makris strikes an excellent balance between a sharp, urban sensibility, an unhurried languor and an elegiac air which reminds us that, even on our streets, there are always stories to be found, to be recreated and to be inspired by.’

Starry Rhymes: 85 years of Allen Ginsberg  edited by Claire Askew and Stephen Welsh. Extract from Chris Emslie’s review: ‘Starry Rhymes is a loving testament to the work of an undeniably important poet. This shows in the care with which the chapbook has been conceived and collated. Its most powerful moments do not, however, rest in the flattery of imitation. […] Undaunted by the not-small task of responding to a giant of modern American poetry, this assembly of thirty-three voices reflects (or possibly refracts) Ginsberg at his most feverish, human and heartbreaking. It is Michael Conley who best summarises how the poet himself might reply to a birthday gift like this: “I am grateful / you have kept me alive. / I am. Listen to me.”’

Everything Speaks in its Own Way by Kate Tempest. Extract from Dan Holloway’s review: ‘Both sound and sight stand on their own (on which note I have to mention the layout of the words – presented on the page as paragraphs more than poems, which works incredibly well, not forcing us to guess or impose rhyme and metre but to let the words flow through us), but this does what beautiful artisan books should do – it is both a full introduction to an author’s work and a collector’s item, perfect for fans and newcomers alike, and a fitting way of bringing a genuinely landmark book to the world.’

Anatomically Incorrect Sketches of Marine Animals by Sarah Dawson. Extract from Ian Chung’s review: ‘Far from being terrible, Dawson’s poems are lyrical observations, shot through with imagery that is tactile and visceral.’

Reasons not to live there by Humphrey Astley. Extract from Afric McGlinchey’s review: ‘Today’s world is complex, and in his pamphlet, Astley has captured the confusion faced by the youth in Britain, where identity is no longer established simply by an accent. Here is a thinking poet, with a natural talent, whose work shows considerable promise.’

lapping water by Dan Flore iii. Extract from Ian Chung’s review: ‘Ultimately, the most compelling feature of lapping water is its intimacy. The danger for the lyric ‘I’ to lapse into solipsism is averted in Flore’s collection because his poems frequently reach out to draw a ‘you’ into their imaginative space.’

Markets like Wide Open Mouths by Tori Truslow. Extract from Claire Trévien’s review: ‘Truslow’s Bangkok comes across in this work as a culturally rich, touristy, buzzing, cosmopolitan, ghost-infested and endlessly fascinating city. In her hands, even a bus journey becomes extraordinary.’

Review: Brand New Ancients – Kate Tempest

In Performance Poetry on October 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

19/09/12 @ The BAC

– Reviewed by Dana Bubulj

What is Brand New Ancients?

It is a modern poetic epic, written and performed by Kate Tempest (performed with backing musicians),  that follows the lives of several young people as they grow up, their paths crossing occasionally within a tight and heart-breakingly human narrative.

The band, whose music is similar to The Cinematic Orchestra, is illuminated on their stepped stage by light streaming in through small windows. They work well both as support for Tempest’s words and in their instrumentals. Only in the show’s refrains did they become a bit too loud for the vocal. Distress, frustration and hope were all straining through the instruments, with each character given their own clear musical voice that enhanced the storytelling.

Who are the Brand New Ancients?

“We are all still mythical”, Tempest starts, with the theme of the show. This is conveyed well, through her “epic narratives” of several, regular people whose characters are so familiar that they almost become archetypes. Perhaps, in less skilled hands, characters like Clive (whose abusive childhood taught him that violence was a way to get your point across) would have been undeveloped stereotypes, but in Tempest’s hands they are shaped into the modern, almost mythic, and oh so real characters that burst out of this piece. Periodically, Tempest weaves in Classical references (a Diana here, Pandora there), that help add to a sense of shared patterns of behaviour. “Your fears, your hopes are old”, she says, a comfort, perhaps, that the gods who “walked among us” (as well as, she acknowledges, periodically turning into animals and raping us), “fought for us” and were full of “imperfect”, human traits (“the gods can’t stop checking Facebook on their phone”).

It is the vividly drawn characters that makes this show so powerful. Tempest has a way with creating such believable people with humour and empathy (for example, Kevin, a “testament to the cavalry of men”), crafting conversations that sound authentic and paint the scenes as vividly as her narration (“prayers were not spoken in a silence like this”). Indeed, her words paint the awkwardness of youth with knowing brush-strokes, just as she also captures the flaws of their youthful reasoning (such as testing someone’s fireman skills with arson).

The “two man nation” of Clive and Spider, who “might have been warriors” in the olden days but now have nothing but each other to fight for, resigned to their fate as “the bad guys” and act accordingly, driving forward the plot’s violent climax with Gloria at her pub after last call. In a nice change from conventional narrative, Tommy, Gloria’s boyfriend, returns from his own crisis of faith (“by my love I am saved”) to see her rescue herself from Clive’s assault, buoyed by anger at a life of  past abuses.

What’s behind the Brand New Ancients?

Another facet to the narrative is that of the dangers of fame. Not a new concern, by any means, but Tempest takes it on well, panning out and tying the Cowell-led hunger for fame and fortune to her theme: “the gods are on their knees in front of false idols”. In almost a plea to return to the gods “among” rather than those “distant”, Tommy follows the convention of getting what he wishes (a job in the city as a graphic artist), to finally realise the unpleasant nature of his colleagues, all “overblown gestures like mime artists” and regret his decisions.

The conclusion seems to fit the themes of the narrative: the possibility to dip into a plethora of individual stories. Moving to years later, in the skin-crawlingly awful voice of Clive’s father, an alcoholic, abusive man now emigrated to Thailand (“out here, pension is riches”) where he’s surrounded by “men like [him]”, left wondering about what had happened to the central characters, we are distant once more to these ‘gods’, and encouraged to find our own.

Brand New Ancients ran from 4-22nd September at the BAC. 

Review: ‘Everything Speaks in its Own Way’ by Kate Tempest

In Pamphlets, Performance Poetry on July 7, 2012 at 9:46 pm

– reviewed by Dan Holloway

One of the most beautiful things I own

Kate Tempest’s first full-length book, published through her own imprint Zingaro, is printed on thick, acid-free paper that nestles between unctuous card covers embossed with minimalist gold print and the imperial purple endpapers that each hide a surprise – pocketed inside are the accompanying CD and DVD. To focus too long on the beauty of this book, CD and DVD set would be an injustice (though it’s hard not to linger on the sheer satisfaction of the object as it sits in your hand). Everything Speaks in its Own Way is both a superb book and an important one.

From Stage to Page

The multimedia format from an artist best known for her coruscating live performances could be seen as a hedging of bets – if the words don’t work quite as well on the page you can turn the sound on to see how they’re “supposed to be.” But that’s not it. Both sound and sight stand on their own (on which note I have to mention the layout of the words – presented on the page as paragraphs more than poems, which works incredibly well, not forcing us to guess or impose rhyme and metre but to let the words flow through us), but this does what beautiful artisan books should do – it is both a full introduction to an author’s work and a collector’s item, perfect for fans and newcomers alike, and a fitting way of bringing a genuinely landmark book to the world.

Tempest: a storming performer

Kate Tempest is such a stunning live performer, her shows so inspirational, that the first book asks key questions, especially for those who believe that performance and page poetry are different things. I first saw her last December in a disused boot factory in Oxford that had no working door, one heater and a dripping roof. She was wrapped in five or six layers, hat, and hood, with her arms wrapped around herself but for half an hour as her passionate, imploring voice rang through the building we were transported somewhere magical. The big question is: how on earth it is possible to distil moments like that onto the page?

With a precious and important voice

It was no surprise to me that the answer is her words are just as precious on the page as they are on the stage. Tempest may be a hip hop MC as well as a poet but she weaves Blake and Shakespeare effortlessly with the patois of the street. ‘What We Came After’, for example, is both a meditation on the loneliness of Prospero and Caliban and a piece railing against elitism in literature/education. It builds itself around imagery from the Tempest, riffing on the line “you know that Hell is empty coz all the devils are here”, effortlessly and intelligently glossing on the play in achingly beautiful language and rhyming as delicately as filigree:

“So, call me Caliban” she says, adding “they gave me language so I could rain down my curses in verses” though back in the day “this island was mine for a home. I was free to rhyme as I roamed now my mind is alone as I writhe and I moan – I’m the captive of consonants” before bringing the significance right to the present:

“we’re needing a breeze through the stifling heat of elitist descriptions of what we can reach”

Why it’s important:

The whole collection moves this effortlessly through the whole cultural canon whilst never losing its biting contemporary edge, from the brutal ‘Cannibal Kids’ to the brilliant dissection of modern working life, ‘Bubble Muzzle’:

“life goes on in a bubble, it’s tunnel vision all week and the weekend’s for seeing double…we’re like a dog wagging its tail, expecting a treat coz it learnt how to put on its own muzzle”

The highlight is the final poem, ‘Renegade’, a call to arms that had the audience in whoops and tears when I heard it, sending us out into the night with a very simple message “I care about genius I don’t care about celebrity” but it’s a message Tempest weaves brilliantly as she leads us through a long, dark night of the cultural soul:

“I’m writing tonight, I got a jam jar of wine, I’m rolling smokes spitting bars to myself with a swollen throat…if you wanna talk, just come find me – I’ll be on Lewisham way watching the dawn melt away”

through her personal epiphany

“I learnt about patience, I learnt about stamina, and every little moment stacked up and it all added to the present”

to the new, angry and frustrated, eyes through which she saw the world

“it’s all so physical here, the alcoholic in the offie, filling up his trolley till the world disappears”

before returning to Shakespeare

“why must we starve while they banquet and feast? But Banquo will rise, he has a message for the guilty”

as she builds to her climax

“meet me at the bar we’ll raise a drink to the sky – and I will show you that you’re fucking incredible.

We’re not flesh, we’re all energy.”

You can buy it here.

WASTED by Kate Tempest

In Performance Poetry on April 5, 2012 at 11:35 am

– reviewed by Susie Wild –

@Sherman Cymru, Cardiff – 24 March 2012

Tempest: Spoken Word to Stage

Kate Tempest has already made a name for herself on the spoken word scene as a poet, rapper and hip hop artist, but with a surname like hers it seems only right that she should cross over to writing for the stage. It is a successful move. Her debut play takes the best elements of these lyrical influences to tell an engaging, emotive story of three friends knee-deep in weekends and growing too old for the drug-fuelled South London party scene.

Friends raving or stuck in a rut?

The friends have known each other since their teens, and now in their mid-twenties, are finding new concerns, aware that in another decade they don’t want to still be gurning at parties, like the people they used to laugh at. On the ten year anniversary of their friend Tony’s death  they each visit his commemorative tree – which at least changes four times a year with the seasons – and make confessions of stagnation. Charlotte (Lizzy Watts) walks out of her job as a teacher and books a flight, wanting to move on, to make a difference – ‘I’m making a decision. I’m changing things. This is it.’ Danny (Ashley George) has a last chance to get what he wants and struggles to man up to the occasion whilst Ted (Cary Cranson) has a job and steady girlfriend but is resigning himself to growing up and going nowhere.

A slice of shared ‘wasted’ experience

Wasted is a wittily knowing and dynamic production, managing to relate the rave experience to those still enjoying it and those who have grown past it in equal measure – nostalgic winks and weary wising up cocktail-mixed in with the loved up togetherness of the shared experience. They dance in warehouses in Peckham where art students are ‘experiencing ketamine’ and all the people there have ‘adjectives as names’ and they spend ‘life retelling life and it’s getting boring.’ and ‘dropping pills just so that we can smile at each other without looking away.’ Acting drunk on stage is hard enough to do and get right, but here all three actors act perfectly wasted as they hug speakers and each other and make plasticine faces.

The show talks of trying to jolt yourself out of that rut where you do the same things as you have always done, but now going to parties you get fucked just to have something to say to each other, and that something is often nostalgia for those first parties, those times when it was all exciting and fun and new. Originally commissioned for Latitude 2011, it speaks to a festival going audience and mixes between pounding music and those early morning ‘what does it all mean, what are we doing?’ lucid conversations and the ‘I’m-getting-too-old-for-this-shit!’ comedown realisations and resolutions to do something else, something more, or perhaps just pop another pill, have another dab – ‘We forgot our epiphany the minute that we thought it.’

Fresh and innovative theatre

Paines Plough have a reputation for putting on innovative new works and spotting the direction that theatre is moving in ahead of the pack. Here, director James Grieve taps into the rising spoken word scene in the UK and make something fresh. Wasted places Tempest’s lucid words into the mouths of a strong cast, especially the emphatically charming Cary Cranson, and allows them to breathe. The multi-media piece effectively mixes poetry, monologue, music and drama yet falls down with the film background, which adds nothing to the other all production, except occasional unwanted distraction. However this, and the delayed start due to technical hitches – this was the first night of the tour where they were without their full team – were my only grievances with an otherwise exhilarating show. In her mid-twenties also, Tempest writes what she knows here and in doing so makes Wasted a heartfelt call to arms to a lost generation, reminding her peers that it isn’t too late to change track, to go for what you want.

Wasted is currently on tour. For dates and to see the video trailer visit: http://www.painesplough.com/current-programme/by-date/wasted

Artist Spotlight #3: Kate Tempest part 1

In Performance Poetry on April 3, 2012 at 1:22 am

– reviewed by James Webster

Kate Tempest is pretty much the reason I got into performance poetry. From the first time I saw her perform (at Hammer & Tongue Oxford in 2009) I was hooked. Since then I’ve seen her perform at various venues, both solo and with her band Sound of Rum, and she’s always been excellent.

Recently I saw her headline both Oxford and Camden Hammer & Tongue events, and it prompted me to sum up those events and Kate Tempest’s general brilliance in this feature article.

Her Background

She hails from South East London (Brockley), came to literature in general and poetry in particular through rap (her facebook fan page lists Wu Tang Clan and Mos Def as influences, among others) and first started performing rap and poetry at hip-hop open mic’s when she was 16. She started performing poetry at squat parties, went on to win some poetry slams, and generally started a meteoric rise that has seen her support the likes of Scroobius Pip and Billy Bragg on national tours.

Her Influences

  • Street/spoken word
  • Given her beginnings as a hip-hop artist and rap battler, it’s unsurprising that her poetry has a ‘street’ vibe to it. Her flowing rhythms, spitfire quick delivery, use of powerful choruses and intricate rhymes, all speak of her rap background, and several of her poems reference city life and the problems it poses (especially to the young, reckless and dispossessed). ‘Cannibal Kids’ is an excellent example, a poem that surges through the streets of London amongst the young people fighting for a place, for what little power there is there, with the moving chorus ‘These cannibal kids wanna be kings/ But there ain’t no royalty left’.
  • ‘Balance’ is another piece on disaffected youth and friends who find and lose their way in the urban wilderness that is London. It evokes teenage friendships and rivalries going on through a grimy and reckless city background, building onto adulthood as the ‘four firm friends become four fierce forces’. It uses a superbly effective premise – that the four friends in the poem are Pride, Envy, Talent and Ambition – she creates an allegory of characters as believable people who ‘hung out, got strung out’ while also being aspects of a fractured psyche that can only prosper when in ‘balance’.
  • Classics
  • In her own words ‘if you wanna write, first you’ve gotta read./ I read Shakespeare, Beckett, Blake and Sophocles’. It is clear in many of Tempest’s poems that she’s a lover of classical literature; something that she feels society tells us belongs only to an elite few who are smart enough to appreciate it. By working the classics into the poems that are often grounded in her life, in London, that is so definitely for all to enjoy, she reclaims them as works of art that are relevant and accessible. These feelings are the subject of ‘What We Came After’, a powerful affirmation of words and knowledge as being yours that draws upon Shakespeare’s Tempest with its refrain of ‘Hell is empty, ‘cos all the devils are here’. It’s a storm of language steeped in Shakespeare’s language and in self-belief, raining down incendiary and scouring verses as Tempest tells us to ‘call [her] Caliban’, a powerful statement for anyone who feels they’ve had to learn and claim language as their own.
  • ‘Icarus’ is another poem using its roots in classics (after the myth of Icarus and Dedalus, obvs) to spread a contemporary message. One of several pieces that Kate performs as both a solo poem and a song with Sound of Rum, its neat refrain ‘Icarus, come down from the sky/ You’re flying too high/ Icarus, heed your father’s words/ This ain’t your territory’ musically highlights the fundamental truth that the story of Icarus has always told us. Who can’t relate to feeling constrained by well-meaning advice and wanting to fly higher, even though it’s dangerous? It’s a beautiful story, beautifully told, making the transcendental points of Icarus’s story and making them so so relatable. ‘No-one even noticed as he crashed and hit the sea-bed/ So those who never flew before could learn from what he did.’

 

  • Her Style
  • ‘Bubble Muzzle’, one of the newer pieces she performed at the Hammer & Tongue gigs in Oxford, was a great example of Tempest’s style. Her poems flow with rhymes that slip and fall over each other, using a central chorus to keep the piece grounded, while her words paint vivid imagines to convey the essence of her point. While she utilises her charismatic and expressive performance to drive the point home and elicit a few laughs along the way. In this case the images she eloquently conjured were of the 9-5 grind wearing you down, when ‘it’s tunnel vision all week and the weekend’s for seeing double’ and you convince yourself ‘YOU’RE REALLY HAPPY’ when in actuality you feel like ‘a dog wagging its tail … to put on its own muzzle’. One of the reasons this piece (like so many of her poems) is so good is that it’s so well rounded, it understands so well the temptation to be ‘so caught up in the everyday [that] we’ve given all our strength away’, but Tempest highlights the importance of rising above it by looking the audience dead in the eye and telling them they have to gather and tell each other ‘there’s more to life than the daily struggle’. Inspiring.

Her Performance

  • Accessible
  • One of the great things about seeing Tempest perform is her funny, unpretentious and rambling banter. She chats to her audiences as if meeting them for the first time at a party, which belies her practiced patter that charms audiences all over the UK. Case in point: at both gigs in Oxford she apologised for seeming insincere, before pointing out that ‘if you hold a stare and point into the middle distance’ it’s easy to fake sincerity  (hand on heart also works here apparently) to big laughs. And she’s always humbly self-deprecating and gracious towards both hosts and audience, easily endearing herself to both.
  • Another example of her engaging style is ‘Love Poem’. She starts with the line ‘Let’s spend the afternoon in bed with 3 bottles of wine’ and then pauses to allow the audience to laugh uproariously, discusses how she should just end the poem there, then continues the poem. It’s a great way of getting a laugh out of the audience and making the poem immediately relatable and accessible. The poem itself is an adorable picture of lazy days, tipsy confessions of love and drunk nights out ‘staggering through this broken town like pennies thrown for wishes’.
  • Intense
  • The captivating ‘Renegade’ is a perfect example of her electrifying intensity. A poem for the ‘hopeless romantics’ and the ‘broken’, she was at her spellbinding best as she seemed to gather every member of the audience into her poem, telling them ‘I will write every one of you a poem and together we’ll burn them’. Starting from describing herself as the eponymous Renegade, by the end she made it clear that we all had it in us to be one, that ‘every minute is the minute to begin it’, that she would show us that ‘you’re fucking incredible, mate’. At Hammer & Tongue Camden it garnered the first standing ovation I’ve ever seen in a poetry event.

To Sum Up: Kate Tempest is one of the best performance poets in the UK today (if not the best). I thoroughly recommend you see her perform or buy her new spoken word album (recently recorded at the Battersea Arts Centre) when it comes out.

Tempest’s first play, Wasted, is currently touring and Sabotage will be publishing a review (as the second part of this feature) on Wednesday.