After its dramatic relocation from the Edinburgh Fringe to JW3, Fiona Leckerman gives The City, a Hip Hop Opera an emphatic five stars.
Set to perform a four week run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Incubator Theatre’s The City, a Hip Hop Opera was the first production in 67 years of the festival’s history to be cancelled.
Organisers pulled the play after a demonstration of more than 100 people, protested against Incubator Theatre group, which is partly funded by the Israeli government, from performing. Last week, with the help of the Zionist Federation it played for three sold out nights at JW3.
The atmosphere suffusing the JW3 auditorium bubbled in anticipation as to what The City would hold for its excited audience. As the house lights dimmed and the first beat dropped to reveal private detective Joe – who was played with true swagger by director Amit Ulman and largely modelled on Humphrey Bogart – we were transported into hardboiled Film Noir. The dangerous undertones intonated by Ulman’s rapping switched to and from voice over style, setting the tone.
One rainy night, Sarah Bennett (a smouldering, Dorit Lilien) appears at Joe’s office pleading for him to solve the murder of her sister. Although Joe has the help of his assistant Jack (played with dazzlingly verbal dexterity by Omer Havron), his every move is shadowed by cop, McMurphy (drummer aficionado Roni Rocket). All accompanied by The City’s musical narrator Omer Mor, who beat boxes, strums the guitar and sings throughout.
Whilst the play follows a traditional Film Noir structure, what is not traditional is the originality of its storytelling. The entirety of this one act play is in rap and it is this rhythm and beat that leads the action. One cannot help but be pulled into the dark under world of The City and yet the players remain aware of its artifice with lovely comedic asides to the audience.
The hip hop style allows for well placed humorous and cultural references to seep through; “He pulled a Clark Gable and was gone with the wind.”
The use and grasp of language is fresh and free, it is impressive that The City has been completely translated from Hebrew to English, made more incredible with funny lines, such as “Why is mouse mice, then House should be hice.”
The performance ended with a standing ovation and as the applause quietened Ida Symons from the Zionist Federation addressed the audience by saying, “Edinburgh’s loss is very much our gain.”
The City’s cancellation in Edinburgh will result in audiences missing out on seeing this electrifying, unique, alive, outstanding play.
Theatre can be used effectively to voice an agenda but the content of The City does not seek to do this. The only aim of its talented crew is to entertain, so it’s massively disheartening that theatregoers have been denied the opportunity to experience this gem.