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Next Wave: Hip hop theatre thrills

Nicola Shafer

Vulk Makedonski, Little G, Elf Tranzporter, DiaTribe Vulk Makedonski, Little G, Elf Tranzporter, DiaTribe
photo Ponch Hawkes
The Melbourne Workers Theatre's DiaTribe offered a punchy, snappy sound-bite from Melbourne's inner city hip hop. Though the room's confines required all manner of contortions from the audience in order to be able to sit down, the spatial situation only served to magnify the power and velocity of the words. Spittle flew and hip hop maestros Little G, Elf Tranzporter and Vulk Makedonski were more in yer face than ever, performing only centimetres from the front row. Paso Bionic, providing the scratching and backing tunes, sat in his own booth beyond the action, though his sounds reached every crevice of the tiny room.

The performance was a moral rap and modern day fairytale, in which the utterly dim-witted and morally ambivalent Shannon (Vulk Makedonski) had his very existence placed on trial before the sharp and sadistic Death (Elf Tranzporter). With no-nonsense Ace (Little G) as his defense lawyer, withering looks were plentiful as the moral journey formed its dynamic: a dangerous pull between Death's seductive word play, Little G's biting, politicised fight-backs and Shannon's moronic, high-pitched ditherings. It was a fight between the uninformed sitting ducks and the action-taking doers of this world, ambling precariously along the wire of death. Using popular culture icons like Eddie McGuire and Jamie Durie, the performance delivered some pretty clever assertions about both those worlds, and took the audience to the core of their own judgmental self: did we despise Shannon or pity him? Were we players in his world or was Shannon alone?

Narrative aside, the verse performance itself was flawless, furious, frenetic and heated. The pace was at its best during the hip hop versing, when each of the 3 dynamic performers took the stage doing what they do best. The beats hit hard and the words bounced. Things tended to slow down between the rhymes, with scripted conversational interactions pulling the story along. Though these were a bit stilted and dry, they offered respite from the pretty heavy lyrics. They were also, of course, a necessary device to make this 'theatre' as well as hip hop.

Writer Angus Cerini and director Chris Kohn, along with the 4 performers, produced a seamless hybrid form that still has me wondering whether it was all scripted or freestyled, acted or ad-libbed? And therein lies the thrill of hip hop theatre.

Melbourne Workers Theatre, DiaTribe, writer Angus Cerini; director Chris Kohn; performers Little G, Vulk Makedonski, Elf Tranzporter; composer/DJ Paso Bionic; Croft Institute, Melbourne, May 19-22

RealTime issue #62 Aug-Sept 2004 pg. Onl

© Nicola Shafer; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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