Working with Spoken Word Poetry in theatrical work

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Theatre is one of the most powerful storytelling mediums in the arts. Whether through the script, or through the performance, theatre has a magical way of getting ideas across to its audiences.

Hip Hop dance theatre is still young; under two decades if you mark the works of Jonzi D, Benji Reid, Robert Hylton and pioneers of the same ilk have done to push the art form forward. Using such a raw dance style as a storytelling tool is only truly beginning to come into its own (notable examples being Boy Blue Entertainment, Avant Garde Dance, Far From the Norm, The Company, and Ella Mesma Dance, to name a few).

Body Politic is 4 years old as an organisation, and just over a year old as a company creating theatrical work. What I’m getting at is that many art forms and ideas need to come together for us to communicate the vast amount of information buried in tackling the issue that is mental health and wellbeing.

Enter Poetry. With a history of socially conscious poets and poems, recent and aged, for us to learn from. As one of the artists, I’ve been writing for years and have a history of mental health issues myself; I’ve openly written about before. So came the idea of implementing spoken word poetry into the piece for its performative and storytelling qualities.

Yet it wasn’t that easy to begin with. After our first Scratch night last year, we realised there needed to be a better blend of spoken word with movement, rather than having one after the other. A better balance needed to be achieved, so the poem didn’t take away from the movement, but rather complimented it. Our practice was also quite split. I would write, the choreographers would choreograph, and the artistic director would design the stage, and we would all come together and try to work it all in (granted we were strapped for time originally; as most small scale theatrical pieces tend to be).

Learning from this process, it’s now best not to shy away from using tools in the writing sphere to compliment my poems for the new pieces we are currently developing. Tools such as script writing that encourage use of cues, backgrounds of characters, use of stage etc. This truly allows for myself, choreographers, and artistic director to work even closer together and command the narrative we truly want to tell. It’s also a bonus we have longer to create!

 

A closer look at an extract of a poem used in the original Reflections. This piece explores different symptoms that trigger depression through the use of personification.

 

Me, Myself, and Mental Health

 

… So I picked up my keys and drove to a bar where I had promised to catch up with Stoicism.

We were childhood friends,

Introduced when crying was no longer allowed,

When emotions decided to be feminine,

And when I decided to be like father.

 

We talked and talked for hours about exercises to make the pain bearable.

Sit ups in the morning, press ups at night,

 

And that’s when I saw her.

The most beautiful thing gliding across the dancefloor.

 

I fell in love with Depression.

 

By Isaac Ouro

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