Drawing inspiration equally from hip hop and Hamlet, DenMarked is an intense, confessional autobiography from musician and spoken-word artist Conrad Murray. Often grim and deeply introspective, the show charts a childhood spent in the shadow of a brutally abusive father and an overwhelmed mother. Blunt, bloody descriptions of domestic violence sit alongside warmer memories, interspersed with quotations from Hamlet which mirror the unfolding events.
Shakespeare’s play has a profound meaning for Murray – a copy gifted to him by an inspirational teacher was the first book he ever owned. Frequently, he repeats the famous line: ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,’ clinging to the belief that personal attitude adjustment can turn a life around.
Murray is a charming, unassuming performer, occasionally hesitant but always engaging as he reflects on both the prejudices he faced, and his own destructive tendencies. It is in the show’s musical segments, though, where he really shines.
Live mixing from looped samples, Murray produces gorgeously textured soundscapes, full of percussive beat boxing and high, haunting melodies which underpin his muscular rap bars. Closing number Cotchin’ is particularly memorable, swelling into a cathartic, hopeful chant with a tremendously catchy hook.
Co-Directed by Ria Parry and Laura Keefe, the performance flows smoothly from storytelling to Shakespeare to music, with nothing more than simple lighting shifts needed to mark the transitions. While the short, often disordered fragments can feel unfocused, Murray’s reminiscences retain a raw, unfiltered authenticity and an undeniable emotional power.