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Markus The Sadist: Review by Simon Newton!

Markus The Sadist
The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.
October 30, 2009

Live hip hop can be a difficult thing to get right. In the past I have found myself let down by rappers who, while good on record, fail to successfully interpret this into live performance. The skill of rapping to a rhythm clearly and consistently for a whole show does not come easily. Knowing this makes Jonzi D’s achievement with the excellent Markus the Sadist all the more impressive. 

The play debates the different motivations in modern UK hip hop culture, taking the well trodden path of mainstream appeal coming at a price of artistic credibility. MOBO nominated Bashy stars in the title role as a talented young battle MC signed to a major record label with promises of wealth and celebrity status. Markus compromises his values to become a gun toting, women cussing, media Gangsta; a figure lampooned hilariously with Markus’ hit song Gun in Yo Ass! (Bitch). His rebellion against his commercial powers that be and subsequent downfall follows the predictable path of imprisonment and eventual murder, though he also falls victim to a slightly less predictable frontal lobotomy.

Other hip hop archetypes are represented; in particular Maxwell Golden gives a skillful and well observed performance as the UK hip hop stalwart and demonstrates real ability on the mic. Colleen Joseph is scintillating as Markus’ fame hungry love interest, and dub poet Nolan Weekes is suitably slick as A&R man Top Blizzy.

The play is well written with the dialogue rarely straying from rhyme, and well acted with some brilliantly choreographed pieces of physical comedy and some very abstract multi-character monologues superbly played by Rob Broderick. Most importantly Jonzi D succeeds in delivering a rap show of genuine quality. The beats, all specially produced by big deal jazz / hip hop producer Soweto Kinch, are diverse and funky in their own right and pastiche certain strains of hip hop accurately when they need to. The lyrics are authentic, inventive and funny, and are delivered with skill from the whole cast – some of whom clearly are experienced rappers and others who probably are not. SN

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