226 Views

Kate Tempest Speaking Against The Grain

Spoken word is an art form that often evades definition or categorisation, and that is no bad thing. Regularly viewed as distinct from, although closely associated with, written poetry, it also has strong links with music. This is most apparent in hip-hop, and many spoken word artists are also MCs, many of whom wouldn’t be averse to their work be described as a style of poetry. Def Poetry Jam was a show that aired in the noughties hosted by Mos Def and showcased countless talented spoken word artists and poets, interspersed with well-known figures from the music industry like Kanye West, Eryka Badu and Common. Poetry slams also partake in this melding of art forms. Anyone who has attended Poets vs MCs, a staple of the Brighton cultural calendar, will be well aware of the crossover of styles and performances between the two teams. So the links and crossover between spoken word and music is well established, but a less well explored link is with theatre, and it would not be a stretch to say that spoken word is in itself a form of theatre. This is well-embodied by Kate Tempest (director for Brighton Festival 2017).

A multi-faceted artist, she started out melding hip-hop with spoken word, before adding playwright and later novelist to her CV. None of these forms of expression are isolated though, but are instead entwined and interlinked. Anyone who has seen her perform a spoken word set can testify to the visceral energy that stems from the stage. Her show at Glastonbury this year was the epitome of this – a 10 minute set that melded new pieces with older ones from both her poetry and music back catalogue. The pieces were stitched together into one grand over-arching performance. Tempest stormed about the stage clutching the microphone and performing the words. Both sight and sound are essential to the show, the whole thing builds into a powerhouse of emotion and depth in a way that is undeniably theatre. Tempest authored her first play Wasted in 2012, the same year her extended spoken word piece Brand New Ancients was performed at the Battersea Arts Centre before being taken on tour backed by musicians. This again was a show, a piece of theatre as well as spoken word, and the printed poem would go on to win the Ted Hughes Prize for poetry.

The fact the same piece of art was effective over multiple platforms shows either the malleability of a great work of literature, or the way it can transcend generic and categorical limitations. Ultimately Tempest represents not just the way in which different branches of the arts are intertwined, but also the way that whilst categorisation can be useful it can also be limiting and in some cases inaccurate.

Art is supposed to challenge and provoke, to carve out new paths rather than simply tread water – it is why Shakespeare is so often reimagined and reinvented. A sound knowledge of an art form and of the greats who helped create and shape it can only be a good thing – Tempest has spoken of her influences such as Beckett, Shakespeare and Wu-Tang Clan – but this knowledge cannot be a limiting thing. It must be used as a basis to build from rather than rest upon. For art to evolve it must test preconceived notions of what is expected of it, and it must push at generic boundaries within the art form it belongs to. Even more that this though, it can challenge the divisions between art forms themselves, and spoken word is at the cutting edge of that.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
720 views1
Campus News
720 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
165 views
Arts
165 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
184 views
Arts
184 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
179 views
Arts
179 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
221 views
Arts
221 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
223 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
218 views
Arts
218 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
209 views
Arts
209 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
332 views
Campus News
332 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
169 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
461 views
Arts
461 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
208 views
Arts
208 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
308 views
Artist Focus
308 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
215 views
Interview
215 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
293 views
Arts
293 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
332 views
Arts
332 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
370 views
Arts
370 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
269 views
Artist Focus
269 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
281 views
Books
281 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
367 views
Science
367 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
337 views
News
337 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…