For Debris Stevenson, grime was the pathway to salvation. Her Royal Court debut Poet in da Corner is a semi-autobiographical account of how she discovered the genre and consequently discovered herself.
The show is inspired by Dizzee Rascal’s debut album, Boy in da Corner. It’s almost improbable that these two ever met. Stevenson was raised in a strict mormon household – no fun was allowed.
Stevenson’s story is one of rage and trauma, but also comedy. It plays out on a set, designed by Jacob Hughes, that gives homage to the Boy in da Corner artwork, with its black and yellow colour scheme.
Several histories are seamlessly sewn together in this 70-minute high-octane musical. We learn of Mormonism, working class culture, critical race theory and the evolution of the grime scene. In Aaron Sillis’ choreography chests pop, waists wind and batties cock out, while the DJ runs the sounds of Michael Dapaah, Stormzy and Giggs alongside Stevenson’s interpretations of tracks from Dizzee’s seminal album.
Ola Ince’s production is an epiphany and game-changer. It throws away the rulebook and opens your ears and eyes to what theatre could and should be. The release of Boy in da Corner in 2003 caused great waves of excitement in the music industry. That which had been previously confined to pirate radio stations and underground raves ascended to the mainstream. This has the same thrill.
Poet in Da Corner is a reclamation of space and a declaration of intent. If you don’t know, you better get to know – because the revolution will be staged.