(I)sland T(rap): The Epic Remixology of the Odyssey
- Arusa Qureshi
- 16 August 2019
This article is from 2019
Fantastical one-man show that expertly blends hip hop with Homer's Odyssey
A theatrical re-telling of The Odyssey, (I)sland T(rap) merges hip hop with Homer's epic mythology, placing an emphasis on contemporary African American culture while infusing the bleak reality with a touch of faith and magic.
The protagonist, who calls himself Black Ulysses, wakes up on an exotic island with an imagined Jungle Book-like setting, where he must overcome a series of challenges to reach the symbolic mountaintop. Armed with a ukulele and very few props, Austin Dean Ashford creates an entire universe on stage; his verses, beatboxing and slick movements aiding this fantasy in a way that transports the audience so we really believe in his story and in turn, root for his central character's success.
In this one-man show, Ashford is an utterly compelling performer, switching seamlessly between personalities, settings and emotions, with songs and spoken-word segments that would not be out of place on a modern-day rap record. As he shifts from character to character, whether it be Black Ulysses, a wise-cracking lobster or a villainous python, it is hard not to be taken in by his commitment to this fantastical world.
Ultimately, amidst a backdrop of talking animals and slick verses, Ashford reveals his internal anxieties, with his journey acting as an allegory of life itself in America, where the black experience is marred daily by racism, gun violence and systemic oppression.
Assembly Checkpoint, until 26 Aug (not 12, 19), 1.15pm, £12–£14 (£11–£13).