Review: Unleashed Dance group at The Barbican, London

Unleashed is the youth of London’s response to the riots last summer, and gives a long awaited voice to the many young people who have felt disenchanted and unrepresented in the UK. The 200 performers who made up the cast of Unleashed were met with a standing ovation from its Barbican audience, and the feeling that something important was being said at exactly the right time in history was the resounding feeling. A question and answer session followed the performance, which brought up some of the controversial issues surrounding last year’s events.

Explosive Emotions 

The stage was fraught with high energy that spilled out from every corner, rising and falling with the heavy sense of cause and effect- confrontation and defensiveness, the forces of opposites eventually building towards the chaos that embodied the riots last year.  Poet Kareem Parkins-Brown kicked off the performance with a message about ambition, followed by solo poetry by Kieron Rennie that lead into the riot scene reminiscent of last year’s events in London.

But the tone was not all anger and anxiety- there were plenty of playful twists and character comedy to keep the audience captivated, showcasing impressive linguistic skill from London’s youth. The spectrum of opinions that inevitably came out after the riots, were spread throughout the performance: what young people saw, what they were told by parent, what the politicians said and what Skynews told the world. Expression, reflection, and analysis were woven throughout the performance, making this a sophisticated piece of performance art that was honest, though provoking and challenging.

The Next Generation of Performing Arts Pros?

The show was a grassroots project led by the Barbican and hip hop group Boy Blue Entertainment ,  and included other young musicians, artists, filmmakers and poets from across London. The quality of the performance was down to the combination of carefully crafted social commentary and slick, high energy performances. It was easy to forget that most of the performers were still children, and those who took part could definitely pursue careers in the performing arts, already having a head start with Unleashed in their portfolios. Produced by Jill Shelley and Angie Smith and directed by Walter Meierjohann, this performance was nothing short of exceptional, uniquely fresh in its social commentary professionally executed.

Unleashed is a timely performance that arrived at exactly the right time– just over a year since the riots- making it fresh but also  brief. It will be interesting to see how/if this small chunk of history is reproduced in the theatre in years to come.

Find out What’s on at the Barbican Theatre  in London.


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