Unleashed, Barbican Theatre, London

5.00

 

In a central scene of Unleashed, accounts of the fears and frustrations of young Londoners build into a scene inspired last year’s riots.

The drummers of Barbican Drum Works thunder out rhythms. Two opposing sides of dancers go from defensive-aggressive body language into explosive hip hop dancing, small confrontations spilling into rage. The whole stage boils with energy and noise, but there’s also a sense of cause and effect: how the anger builds up, and the fear it leaves behind. In 70 minutes, Unleashed sweeps from riot to analysis, with a lot of character comedy along the way.

The show is the culmination of a large-scale community project run by the Barbican Centre and Boy Blue Entertainment, the street dance company that created the award-winning Pied Piper. Boy Blue has always built its hip hop dance theatre from the grassroots up. The fiercely disciplined dancers of its two youth wings, Da Bratz and Da Bluez, are a familiar part of this company’s shows. Here, they’re working with other youth arts groups based at the Barbican, from drummers and orchestral musicians to poets and filmmakers.

The show is built up in layers, making a taut, exuberant performance. Young poet Kareem Parkins-Brown launches the evening, urging his audience on to ambition, with witty twists on traditional inspirational messages. Kieron Rennie’s poem about gang culture leads into the riot scene.

Produced by Jill Shelley and Angie Smith, with support from artist leaders in different disciplines, Unleashed was created by its young performers. They’re spontaneous performers who still sound like real children. Perched on pianos, they tell us their own memories of the riots: what they saw, what their parents told them.

When someone asks if they knew any rioters, there’s an outburst of disagreement and contradiction. Individual voices stand out: an urge to show off, vivid moments of fear or bewilderment. “I expressed my opinions on Twitter,” said one child, with cool assurance. Another worried about the man who had stolen basmati rice: “Why would anyone steal rice?”

After we’ve heard from young people, the show draws in adult views of them, from politicians’ debates to proud parents. Everyone worries about the effect of budget cuts and limited opportunities; nobody has easy answers.

When the young people describe their own ambitions, they spill from career plans to exuberant fantasias, illustrated by film sequences. There’s some wonderful dancing, from hip hop acrobatics to tight, sleek moves. Unleashed has immense drive and focus, bringing in different aspects of performance without losing its momentum or freshness. It’s an angry, open and joyful show.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum