Rowan James: Easy for You to Say
A thought-provoking challenge to notions of normality
This article is from 2015.
Tugging at his ears, ritualistically tapping his legs, and breathing deep, regimented breaths, performance poet Rowan James stands up-stage with his back to the audience before the start of his debut Fringe show. When he is joined on stage by acclaimed hip-hop artist Marv Radio, the pair immediately launch into the opening number of a provocative production that questions who is normal, who is not, and who gets to decide.
In a criticism of society's labelling culture, Easy for You to Say begins with a survey that queries the racial, sexual and gender identities of the audience members. James speaks about his own experience of living with a disability in a world obsessed with normality, and through a number of interactive sections, the show troubles the audience's own conceptions of identity. It's uncompromisingly direct in its approach, but its good-humoured nature and the inherent likeability of the performers prevent the show from feeling didactic.
Music plays a key role in the production, with fusions of James's poetry and Radio's hip-hop interspersed throughout the hour. With their wrenched rhymes and clumsy rhythms, the lyrics often sound forced and frequently lack depth, but Radio's score, produced live on stage by voice alone, is consistently impressive, adding a mesmerising edge to the production's striking movement sequences.
The self-described 'punk pirate poet' and 'sonic shaman' make a strong duo, and their affable camaraderie is the highlight of the performance. A potent mix of music, poetry, and performance, Easy for You to Say is an enjoyable and insightful look at the identity of individual in society.
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