Anthem for a Doomed Youth

Rappers write rubbish lyrics, right? No, that’s not a tongue twister, but it’s pretty much what I thought until I happened upon Kate Tempest, and her play Wasted which is on at the Roundhouse Studio Theatre until next Saturday. It’s some of the most inspiring, energetic and poetic new writing I’ve seen in a long time.

Forget the teens. They may be rebellious years, but at least you have your dreams. It’s the twenties you have to watch out for., when you’ve traded in your hopes for a suit and a grindingly boring job, when the kids you wanted to inspire stare back at you with glazed eyes, or when you’re still waiting for that record label to find you in the dive you’re playing. The pills you pop don’t give you the same pep. The hot sex has gone stale and the girl in accounts never stops talking.

Is this all there is to life? You don’t have to be 25 to identify with swopping passion for routine, for whatever it is that will pay the mortgage. Everyone knows what it feels like to have “the days you’ve wasted sit at the end of your bed and laugh at you as you try to sleep.”

Tempest takes three friends who mark a decade of growing up with the anniversary of the one that didn’t. We never find out what happened to Tony, but the trio that remain behind are locked in lives they were never going to lead. The playwright splices rap with shocking monologues and fraught dialogue, vivid imagery and comic insight. It’s beautifully staged in an intimate atmosphere and the trio of actors and a single musician capture all the beauty of the word and the anguish of the soul.

The waves of recognition that were coming from the very twenty-something audience made me think that this is a work every politician should experience. There’s nothing political about it, but it’s the pressure cooker that turned into the riots last year, it’s a generation that is screaming to get out of society’s vice-grip.

Ten years is a long time, yet it feels like yesterday. Where were you a decade ago – and where do you think you’ll be in another ten years?


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