There is a state in long distance running called the wall. It happens when the body has used up all its fuel and needs to either stop running or switch fuel and it hurts, a lot. To overcome this, the only solution is to keep running, and after the pain comes a state of mild euphoria follows. That is what it felt like as Dauda Ladejobi finished his half hour reading of the 60 year old poem The Howl.
Howl 2.0 starts with a short introduction, then Dauda Ladejobi, James Massiah, Jack Rooke, Cecillia Knapp, Kareem Parkins Brown and Rosie Knight read the six poems that compose the show. The first five are various modern pieces inspired by the original; warming the audience up before the reading of the original takes place. In some cases, subtle video and audio effects are used to enhance the effect of the words, although at least once it became distracting from the poetry.
The works are tied together by a shared theme of urban angst, be it angst over lovers, the distancing effects to technology, inability to connect with an individual or rage at being marginalized. Motifs from the original are freely and rightly borrowed and updated, creating modern takes on timeless feelings.
Sadly, the continuous angst buries several attempts at dark humour. All of the pieces have a similar dark tone that makes them blend together. This is both beneficial, since it gives that evening a united feel and bad since none of the new poems manage to stand out. The readers, especially Ladejobi deserve praise for keeping the audience enthralled as well as they did despite the repetitive nature of the works . As he finished his marathon reading, one could feel the audience willing him on.
The only true complaint is that only the minority of performers were off-book. This cheapened it when a performer was using his phone to illustrate a point and lessened the connection to the audience. Still, getting the words right was more important. That and shuffling and mumbling at the back of the stage during the final reading, which distracted from the performance.
Few great pieces of art are simple or easy to digest, while this may fall a few steps short of true greatness it’s a wild and daring attempt at it and deserves praise for that. 3/5
Review written by Ingimar Sverrisson.
Howl 2.0 was on at the Roundhouse on Thursday 29th May. For more information on future productions at the Roundhouse, visit here…