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Vocal gymnastics keep Rebels in hip hop form

PUBLISHED: 12:37 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010

POLITICAL: The chaotic naked-dancing Dizraeli.

POLITICAL: The chaotic naked-dancing Dizraeli.

THE year is 2013 and after a terrorist attack during Lon-don s Olympic Games, the government has outlawed civil rights, writes Kate Mead.

THE year is 2013 and after a terrorist attack during Lon-don's Olympic Games, the government has outlawed civil rights, writes Kate Mead.

On paper The Rebel Cell hardly sounds like a laugh riot but this refreshingly intriguing production, at Greenwich Theatre last weekend, managed to strike a balance between gentle self-deprecating humour and political soapboxing.

The two-hander, with music by Jamie Simmonds, features writers Baba Brinkman and Dizraeli, who present an hour-long rap musical about a dark fictional future.

Dizraeli becomes a political prisoner after he is caught enjoying a naked dance protest and is held captive in the notorious Guantanamo-style prison Glastonbury.

Held responsible for every act of terrorism imaginable, Dizraeli faces 23 life sentences and his only chance to redeem himself is to tell his story to his nemesis Baba Brinkman, who has his own agenda.

The plot, although somewhat flimsy, gave the performers a chance to do what they do best - conducting a Hip Hop style debate on stage.

With Simmonds DJing on stage and some nice projection accompaniment, director Simon Muller's technical vision was an impressive backdrop to the musical - though using radio mikes as well as hand held ones sadly distorted some of the fantastic lyrical banter.

Some of the lyrics were particularly intellectual - from debating capitalism to discussing the literary genius of the Iliad and Plato - so to lose any of them was a shame.

And their freestyling as Mud Sun, using input from the willing audience, was confident.

According to Dizraeli, their music was born through their realization that they were at political loggerheads and by magnifying their attitudes, they used the stage to play out their war of words.

Their rap was a no holds barred sparring match at times, with references to Baba's privileged 'Geography teacher' appearance and Dizraeli's 'self-righteous hypocrisy'.

The number The Fallout was so personal it stung, I felt I should leave the room and let them get on with their rap slanging match.

This was clearly a performance that had evolved over time, from Brinkman's Rap Canterbury Tales and its early outing in Edinburgh.

However, where this organic approach made it both fresh and intriguing, the story itself could sometimes feel messy.

But this didn't seem to matter to the mostly young audience, who within minutes appeared to connect with the Rebel in his cell.

Only too happy to 'raise one little finger' to the cameras and interject with their own ideas of what they would like to change in society, it was clear that The Rebel Cell struck a chord for many in the audience.

And for that, this 'rap fable' was worth sitting up and taking notice of - whatever side of the fence your politics keeps you.

* The next production at Greenwich Theatre is Hamlet from February 4.

Call the box office on 020 8858 7755 or visit www.greenwich theatre.org.uk.

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