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What happens when a rapper becomes a dad?
Writer, performer and world record-holding beatboxer Testament (aka Andy Brooks) reckons he’s a pretty right-on sort of guy. He’s had his poetry featured on BBC Radio 4, and collaborated with well-regarded companies on critically acclaimed theatre shows like Blake Remixed and Black Men Walking. He’s a “conscious rapper”, using hip hop to confront important social issues.
But when his daughter is born, he suddenly finds himself questioning his own “woke” credentials. That’s why he’s staying up late, lost in the dark worlds of the internet. Because that’s where people go to talk about these things.
What has he taken for granted? What has he ignored? And what will he discover as he starts to unpick his own prejudices?
Following the success of his play Black Men Walking, which ran at the Belgrade Theatre in February 2018, Testament now returns to the Midlands with Woke, an intimate, unflinching and often funny look at the gendered assumptions underlying our everyday interactions, showing in Coventry on Saturday 15 June.
With a dose of wit, self-deprecation and a truckload of honesty, Testament fuses elements of beatboxing, rap, storytelling, music, comedy and conversation to confront his own worldview, encouraging audiences to challenge their own perceptions in the process.
Testament says: “I’ve come from being a conscious rapper, someone who tries to use hip hop to talk about social issues, social justice and the wider world. But then a few years ago, my daughter arrived and it really changed my world. I would say I’m a feminist, but what have I actually done about sexism and misogyny? Have I taken any action? Is it reflected in my music at all?
“My hope is that audiences go away feeling uplifted, that they’ve had a great time, they’ve laughed and enjoyed the music, but also had a little bit to think about as well,” he adds.
Woke is created and performed by Testament in association with LittleMighty. The show is directed by Tom Wright and produced by Leeds Playhouse, Royal Exchange Theatre, Roundhouse and Camden People’s Theatre.
Director Tom Wright says: “I think what’s been really inspiring about the process so far and the resulting show is the honesty with which Andy is bringing himself to all of the work. What are the ways in which, as a man, his life has been so much easier that he hasn’t even noticed?”
Gilly Roche, producer for Leeds Playhouse, says: “Andy’s a really amazing storyteller. He’s incredibly charismatic and can hold and engage and cajole an audience in ways that I’ve never experienced with any other storyteller. It’s brilliant!
“I hope that [audiences] in some way feel provoked. I’m really excited about the idea that somebody might go away with a slightly more meaningful understanding of feminism or of hip hop,” she adds.
Woke runs at the Belgrade Theatre at 2.30pm and 8pm on Saturday 15 June. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper.
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