With a smoky scene and a raw, edgy set, the story begins with five teenagers taking to the stage, “I’m going to start the poem now”.
Ode to Leeds follows the struggles, emotions and determination of five young people sharing their passion for poetry and the spoken word. Each poem has edge, roots and explores the depth of their lives in Leeds, the truth behind their words and poems has such a powerful impact.
The language flows from them through rhythm and movement and is excellently performed. You find the truth hidden behind each poem, the words and lines mean something so significant to their lives, aspirations, and upbringings. This is fantastic, the emotions conveyed help you get to know each character individually and the passion of poetry that has brought them all together.
Writer Zodwa Nyoni’s characters show true likeness to Leeds Young Authors, the group that changed Nyoni’s life, through success, friendships and performing. The five characters form a strong bond as they support each other through love, loss and self-discovery.
They form a group ‘Metaphonetics’ aspiring to take part in America’s Brand New Voice championships, the rocky journey to the championships enables each character to discover their own voice and identity within the city. The chemistry between the characters is what gives the performance such electricity and life, the opening scene provides fiery words and repetition which immediately grips you. Amazing performances from the young cast, young Mack from Seacroft with his loveable humour to Darcy with such a talented voice, she expresses her words through gestures and body language that is incredible to watch.
The referencing to Leeds is conveyed in a variety of ways through projections of maps, streets and buildings, it gives a true representation of the culture and you can’t help but be #proud to be from Leeds. This local feel is brilliantly displayed and shows the talent and strength the city withholds.
James Brining’s direction and stage placement is key to the performance, the sounds, music and images give real grit to the action and the brilliantly talented actors really capture the core of each character through movement and verbal poetry. The lighting firmly puts the focus on the performers and the stripped back set enables the characters to really capture the audience in their words. Praise goes to the scenographic element of projections through skype calls, map pin drops and images of Leeds.
The modern youth feel gives the performance a real edge, it shows that a simple set, five microphones and 16 poems can have such power. Ode To Leeds shows the true struggles youths face, but determination, aspirations and strong friendship bonds enable them to find their true identities and pursue their passions.
Prepare for emotion, laughter and a fantastic evening, really recommend it! “There is so much, the page can’t catch it all”. 5/5.
Ode to Leeds runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday 1 July 2017. For more information go to: www.wyp.org.uk/events/ode-to-leeds/
This post was written by Rachel Benn using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.