Thankfully not a glowing tribute to 80s DJ and TV presenter Mike ‘Smitty’ Smith, instead this show brings to life the latest album from jazz saxophonist, MC, festival organiser and all round dude Soweto Kinch.
Inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins (with a dash of Dante’s Inferno thrown in for good measure) it’s the tale of an aspiring MC and his struggle to get to a showcase gig that could make or break him. The Seven Deadly Sins? Dante? Hip hop? Okay so perhaps they’re not the most likeliest of bedfellows but if anyone can make it work you’d put your money on Kinch.
The plot itself is fairly straightforward. Smith has a few hours to prepare a rap and get to the gig. Along the way our hero has to battle with everything from sloth to gluttony though, via a series of set pieces simply but effectively depicted (clever lighting adds movement and depth to the stage) and using graphic novel style still images projected onto a cloth as the backdrops.
Part gig, part improv, part theatrical production Ricardo Da Silva impressed as Smith...well, the main Smith anyway, both Soweto and Tyrone Isaac Stuart also played elements (alter egos perhaps?) of the role. He’s particularly good at the more comedic parts of the show, especially the innuendo rich Lust section. Hilarious. Trust me chaps, you’ll never buy a pair of shoes from a lady the same way again.
This being a Soweto Kinch production the man himself is pretty much onstage throughout of course, either blowing up a storm behind the backdrop or shadowing / tempting Da Silva in front of it. Happily (and if you’ve seen him before you’ll know how good he is at this) he even manages to work in a freestyle section too, leaping about through the audience and good naturedly ripping a few of them to pieces. Local poet Spoz copped for some particularly hilarious lines this evening...
Throughout it all Shane Forbes and Nick Jurd provide some fine and suitably jazzy drums and bass respectively, flanking Kinch either side of the cloth backdrop so they’re visible too, cleverly blurring the line between a more traditional jazz gig and this hybrid. Add effective choreography (street style with a little ballet thrown in) from Jonzi D (an MC and Poet as well as a graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School...jeez, these dudes make me feel such a slack ass) and the whole thing’s a delightfully fresh fusion of fly raps, jazzy beats and classical references that somehow manages to be as entertaining as it is ambitious.
A few decades on from hip hop’s birth in the Bronx it now takes another bold and intriguing step forward in Brum. Missing it would be the biggest sin of all...
The Legend of Mike Smith is showing at The REP until 28th September. Tickets here.