If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d probably be writing in the same style as Kate Tempest. She’s got an eye for social issues, a way with words, and she knows how to get an audience wound up. But this is Shakespeare of the streets – Tempest has no interest in the machinations of a Royal Court or dual identities.
Now, as a bit of a performance poet himself, this reviewer has seen a lot of angry young urbans in pubs and cafés proclaiming on all sorts of issues, but surely none has ever raised the bar as high as Tempest, who rhymed her way through a 90-minute epic about how two London families interact across the years.
This isn’t poetry – this is rap, performance art, hip-hop patter-song all rolled into one. Indeed, Tempest – backed by her four-piece band, Sound of Rum – sings en-route occasionally, but the tune is almost subliminal and barely registers on the senses.
Those expecting a calm delivery of Brand New Ancients, though, will be disappointed. Tempest’s style is passionate and chaotic. Scans and bridges are stretched impossibly and, just as she gets into a rhythm, Tempest shocks by side-stepping it mid-line.
She apologises for the profanity and then does it all over again because the piece would be all the poorer without the edginess it brings. She feels every word she utters and slings each syllable at the audience with consummate ease. Kate Tempest is a rare talent and a name on the horizon with far more potential than she perhaps recognises.