The Last Poets
Theatre Royal, Brighton
Tuesday 15th My, 2018
‘When the Revolution Comes’.
The words echo in the 200-year-old edifice, with the same aggression and truth, and sending the same message today as they did when first spoken by The Last Poets nearly 50 years ago. The seated audience feels harangued by the constant and relentless tirades, striking with the same venom as at the end of the 1960s during the struggle of the American civil rights movement.
The Last Poets, originally formed in 1968 and now in their 70s, were performing tonight at the Theatre Royal in Brighton, to a mostly white middle-aged crowd, against a simple background of a set of congas and three microphone stands. Most of their material consists of social and political assaults on America and its government, by means of uncompromising pieces of spoken words on music, and tonight they performed their best-of. Pieces like N*****s Are Scared of the Revolution, brutal yet witty, manage to raise a laugh among the crowd who seem to take in comfortably the works of The Poets in a setting a far cry away from the pro-black militant background of when they were originally written.
The supporting acts are scattered between their performances, allowing the audience to mentally rest from the onslaught of the politically charged material delivered by the three men. Zena Edwards, a London poet, voices words on the Windrush generation through her own grandad’s story punctuated by Babatunde’s rhythmic drums, while Brighton poet Sea Sharp, a self-proclaimed ‘refugee of Kansas’, performs pieces from her book of poetry, a muddied version of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, with passion and warmth.
The Poets finish the show with the incendiary This Is Madness, a cut-throat rant on the state of affairs peppered with uncomfortable shrieks, bringing the whole theatre to a well-deserved standing ovation.