They was sick
18 months in the making Unleashed is a collaboration between the Young People of Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning and Blue Boy Entertainment that aims to let the voice of creative London youth pour forth on life as they see it. Although directed by Walter Meierjohann and Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy all the ideas, moves and sounds in Unleashed come from the young performers and, while the ambitious mix of dance, music, poetry and video art doesn’t always gel, it nevertheless proves enlightening. There was, for instance, no mention of love and precious little on drugs or on education but plenty of emphasis on aspiration, family relations and ending peer-led violence.
Set in Ti Green’s excitingly flexible arse-end estate Unleashed worked best when being straightforward, honest or funny. Simple moments such as the a cappella rendition of Jerusalem put the hairs up on the back of the neck (sadly there are no named photos of the artists in the programme so identifying them is just about impossible; a particular shame here because the young lady who belted this out was great). The matter-of-fact accounts of personal experiences during the 2011 London riots was sobering, the hip-hopping David Camerons surely have a stage life beyond this show and the brilliantly filmed and narrated tale of a young girl’s pizza-fuelled engagement plans was hilarious.
The dancing, dynamic and exciting as it was, was entirely restricted to hip-hop which didn’t give much of a sense of the multi-cultural nature of the cast or the city and also added to the sense that the whole work was a tad heavy on the masculine perspective.
There was also, it has to be said, far too many drummers on the stage; they tended to hem in the action and the dancers. The regular outpourings of poetry, although fearlessly told and varied in scope, often wandered into flights of fancy where cold, hard truths might have fared better.
Unlikely as it may seem, the section that got the audience most aflutter was the relaying of the vicious mud-slinging between Michael Gove and Harriet Harman on BBC’s Newsnight over the causes of the London riots. Revealing the two powerful politicians as knee-jerk ‘he/she hit me first’ types wonderfully questioned the authority of, well, authority.
The enormous young cast was generally excellent, ranging from cutesy to bravado to intelligent, and they all deserved their standing ovation for performances that exuded confidence, enormous energy and tremendous professionalism. Considering the disparate elements being tied together it was a pretty good job all told.
Unleashed runs until 24 November 2012 at the Barbican and tickets can be bought on http://www.barbican.org.uk/