Marikiscrycrycry: He’s Dead – Battersea Arts Centre, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Choreographer and Director: Marikiscrycrycry

Tupac Shakur was 25 when he was fatally shot in 1996. The rapper and poet left behind a large body of work, but his death means that anyone examining the emotional basis for his work is denied the opportunity to interrogate the artist directly.

Artist and choreographer Malik Nashad Sharpe, who performs under the name Marikiscrycrycry, has formed the three-act, 45-minute piece He’s Dead around the question of whether Tupac suffered from depression, as the lyrics to some of his works suggest. The unknowable nature of the question has led them to consider Black people’s mental health, and the dehumanisation of Black people.

The opening movement of the piece sees Marikiscrycrycry and Blue Makwana dancing in subdued, atmospheric lighting to a succession of 2Pac songs expertly spliced together. The precision and unity of the dancers’ movements is impressive, especially as they are joined, by first, Eve Stainton and, then, Alexander Love, but the freneticism and jumping from one number to another reveal little about the emotion behind the piece.

That comes later, as He’s Dead moves into more sombre territory. Marikiscrycrycry and Love tussle – first with the former acting as a punching bag for the latter, then as the pair wrestle in a manner that manages to be both full of toxic masculinity, but also with flashes of high camp.

Most movingly, as his cast mates are strewn about the stage, Marikiscrycrycry stands alone, singing of being lost, weary and suicidal, inspired maybe by 2Pac’s Shed So Many Tears. A ritualistic washing of the self, cleansing and spiritual, follows, before all four dancers reunite for an expression of life beyond others’ death.

The whole ends up being far more moving than the individual parts themselves. And interspersed with the dances, short spoken sequences talking of joy and sadness emerge, with figures projected onto haze spurting from the front of the stage.

If that haze stayed vertical, we might see those images more clearly. But as the fog permeates through the Council Chamber of Battersea Arts Centre, people are reduced to ethereal fragments, their words hanging in the air when there is nobody left to say them.

He’s Dead ends with a slow, slightly confused, fade-out, just as Marikiscrycrycry’s theme seems to finally drop into place. It is a curiously apt ending for a piece in which understanding and acceptance are always just out of reach.

Continues until 2 April 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Fitfully moving

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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