'A Lady of Substance' review or 'Getting high on language'

'A Lady of Substance', Jon Cooper
Tristan Bates Theatre, Thursday 29th March 2012
Written For Time Out


Sheer Drop Theatre produces plays that 'use language in new ways' and they've found a natural and flamboyant wordsmith in playwright, Jon Cooper. Cooper positively luxuriates in language and he is a rare breed, equally comfortable writing poetry and rap, as he is concocting dialogue.

Cooper's new play, 'A Lady of Substance', contains two characters – a middle age performance poet and a young rapper – that allow Cooper to express himself freely. There's no denying the fierce sway of Cooper's poetry but the surrounding play feels less assured. The convenient plot twists chip away at the production's authenticity and the sentimental conclusion feels forced. The melancholic music and soft lighting, from director Samantha German, also feel a touch indulgent.

Still, if you can stomach the schmalzy stuff, there's much to enjoy. Cooper hits a purple patch midway through, when poet, Cassandra and rapper, Jasmin (Tia Bannon) take shedloads of drugs and get high on language. Bannon is a firecracker of a performer and her final speech, as she elegantly rages about London's 'cannibal children', is powerful and substantial stuff.

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