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Kate Tempest on Tour: Brand New Ancients

| Music, Special Events, Theatre | 18/11/2013

Kate Tempest
Kate Tempest. Photo by Katherine Leedale.

When I walked out of the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square after seeing Brand New Ancients performed, I was a little bit speechless and more than a little bit in love with Kate Tempest. Tempest is a hugely talented poet, rapper, storyteller and spoken word artist and this production, Brand New Ancients, showcases her talent brilliantly. Brand New Ancients is a Battersea Arts Centre co-production that will be touring venues in London and around the country from now until April. It will end at the beginning with the final performances taking place in the Battersea Arts Centre.

Brand New Ancients is a story of modern gods and the gods that are in every one of us: ‘we are still godly’. Told in the style of an epic, this poem is reminiscent of the ancient works of Homer and his contemporaries. It draws on the same tropes of heroism and godliness but in a strikingly average setting. This is modern day London not Ancient Greece. The story itself follows the generations of two families as they intertwine and collide in shocking, heart wrenching and (very occasionally) uplifting ways. Told so eloquently, the narrative explores the not always sparkling reality of love, loss and loneliness in modern society.

The characters themselves are all unnerving familiar in their normalcy. They are so real it is hard not to recognise that regular who sits in the corner of your local pub or the woman working on a checkout, bored and disillusioned by life. This is where the power of Kate Tempest’s poetry lies – it is real and relatable but somehow otherworldly in it’s beauty and truth.

The tale is accompanied by a live quartet comprising of a cello, tuba, violin and percussion. It is the presence of music that makes the genre of the performance slightly fuzzy. It is spoken word storytelling, it is rap, it is a musical performance and it is theatre. In reality it is all storytelling. Even the instrumental interludes tell a story – one such interlude tells the story of two people meeting and sharing their first kiss through music. The percussion demonstrating the excitement and the gentle strings indicating a softness and burgeoning intimacy. The music is what makes Brand New Ancients a complete and polished performance. Although without it it would still be phenomenal, the music (particularly the percussion) picks you up, carries you along and involves you completely in the narrative.

Tempest’s delivery is honest and powerful. She weaves a vivid and visual narrative of the lives of her characters, not shying away from sordid details or from elated victories. This emphasis on truth and reality (and her impressive stage presence) forges a connection between performer and audience that lasts beyond the final line.

Told with humour, sorrow, joy and excitement, Brand New Ancients is a story of modern life to be captivated and rendered speechless by (I was and pretty much still am). For more information about the production and the tour visit the tour website: The next stop is 16th December at the Spitalfields Music Festival.

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