Held in E4’s Udderbelly, Lemn Sissay attempted to explore the reason why he doesn’t hate white people using comedy. Sissay told us about his upbringing in Lancashire, and how he was ‘the only ethnic in the village’.
Lemn Sissay took to the stage, bursting with energy. His performance was animated as he leaped, skipped and jumped around the stage. I felt exhausted just watching him. He used video montage to explore deeper what ‘white’ meant to different people. This proved interesting as most people said trivial things like ‘snow’. Sissay also adopted different voices of people in the town he grew up in to show how he was treated, and how this made him feel. He posed the question: ‘why do people say that they can’t see colour, when they can see colour?’ this was particularly poignant.
In the end, Sissay realised that he doesn’t hate white people because they made him who he is today.
I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect from Benjamin Zephaniah’s performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall, so I attended with an open mind.
Before Zephaniah took to the stage, he was introduced by Leman Sissay. Eager to introduce Zephaniah, Sissay came onto the stage before his cue, much to the amusement of the audience. Sissay gave the most enthusiastic introduction I had ever encountered, grinning from ear to ear as he sang Zephaniah’s praises.
Then Benjamin Zephaniah took to the stage. Visually, Benjamin Zephaniah doesn’t strike you as a star… well not the type that adorns the pages of Heat magazine every week. He introduced himself using his full name – Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah. He joked that his name gets him ‘stopped at every airport.’ This was one of a few jokes Zephaniah used to not only introduce himself, but also to warm the audience up.
His first poem, ‘This is Me’ sent a shiver down the spine as he repeated ‘this is me’ like a chorus, which echoed as it bounced off the walls. Throughout his performances of his different poems, his inflection leaps between West Indian and his native Birmingham. Sometimes it was hard to comprehend what he was saying; as he was speaking so fast the brain struggled to keep up as his words ran into one another.
One thing that was not lacking from his performance was passion. This was shown through his animated performance. Whether he was poking fun at race relations in ‘The Men from Jamaica are Settling Down’ (based on the style of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech), or commenting on some men’s flawed view of masculinity in ‘Man to Man’, Zephaniah’s every move and facial expression helps him to convey his point to the audience.
Speaking of the audience, for some reason I had the idea that I would be the youngest person there. This thought was destroyed as I had a look around in the auditorium. There was a nice mix of people, all ages (some quite a bit younger than myself), all enjoying the show.
An evening of ‘cultural intercourse’ indeed. (His words, not mine.)