Dead Poets @ Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh

Dead Poets pits Mark Grist, English teacher and one time Poet Laureate of Peterborough against MC Mixy, a hip-hop performer also from Peterborough.

Its essentially a show about two mediums, poetry and rap, that are as word-fuelled as each other but separated by a pretty epic cultural chasm, and the discovery of common ground between the two.

Performed in one of the many basement spaces of the cavernous Banshee Labyrinth, its one of many spoken word and poetry events on the Free Fringe this year.

Both Grist and Mixy are warm and likeable performers, aiming for laughs over didacticism but with a message inherent in their material. Grist uses his poetry to describe his experiences as a teacher and seems genuinely excited by his role as an imparter of knowledge, a shaper of young minds. Mixy meanwhile expresses ambivalence towards education and describes the incongruity of being a rapper from the countryside.

At first they play up their differences. Grist counters hip-hop clichs with a hymn about craving a girl who reads, while Mixy’s slightly daft tractor rap gives way to a celebration of rural poet John Clare. Together they subtly subvert genre conventions, while describing their friendship and their growing appreciation of the others skills. By the end of the show they have started to experiment with the others style of performance; Mixy takes his raps to spoken word events and poetry nights, even though, as he observes, they tend to be riddled with hippies, while Grist enlists in hip-hop slams, using his board game prowess to wrong foot guys with handles like Omen.

It all cumulates in a slam showdown where the two gleefully rip into one another. Its a playful, self-deprecating and enjoyable hour that succeeds in making its audience think about the relationship between poetry and rap.

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