5starsculture

Traumatised by the London riots of 2011, the youth of London have found their voice once again in the short-lived production Unleashed.

Over the last 18 months, the prestigious Barbican Theatre has collaborated with a consortium of youth art groups to bring a united performance on the thoughts and feelings of the issues faced by London's youth: postcode wars, gang membership, the vacuum of opportunities and the polarising London riots.

unleashed barbican

Duane Kitaka

Under the direction of Walter Meierjohann, Boy Blue Entertainment joined forces with a number of East London-based ensembles - Future Band, Young Poets, Young Filmmakers, Drum Works - to create Unleashed's cast of nearly 200.

A mixed media of words, dance moves, films and music tell a loose story of the experiences of London's children, teenagers and young adults. Poet Kareem Parkins-Brown shows his talent with The Dream Dealer, an aspirational poem in which he urges the audience to "flirt with impossible with a picture of your children already in mind."

unleashed barbican

Kareem Parkins-Brown

A re-enactment of gang wars sees dance-offs and drumming battles between two sides of the stage. A burning bin is slowly dragged into view, followed by memories of the riots: "London was burning… my best friend slept with the light on for a week … Sky News were concerned about our views."

The young cast deal with natural stage mishaps with the cool calm of seasoned professionals. Should they choose it, Unleashed's performers have bright careers in the arts before them.

unleashed barbican

Nicole Antoine-Annan

Since the riots, the debate over the cause of the destruction has been fierce, highlighted best by the fractious Newsnight discussion between Education Secretary Michael Gove and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman.

Unleashed project this pertinent interview on to the back walls of the stage, showing Harman's suggestion that "I think you should be on the side of young people," met with Gove's response that he is "appalled" by her.

When watching the full interview, it is clear that the political posturing of both sides is excluded from Unleashed's edited version, however, it is not one-sided or divisive to state the simple fact: The Kids Aren't Alright. Those born between 1985 and 1995 are often referred to as the 'jinxed generation'.

Aside from the Newsnight clip and a troupe of dancers wearing David Cameron masks, Unleashed stays light on politics - the production is about the young performers, giving them a rare creative platform for their voices.

unleashed barbican

Kieron Rennie

Seeing the clear joy of the performing cast is infectious - Unleashed is met with a standing ovation from all in the Barbican Theatre - how often does that happen?

Five star reviews don't come around very often either. Neither do huge young casts that combine balanced social commentary and high standards of performance - an eclectic vision as bold and clear as Danny Boyle's Olympic Games opening ceremony - a show that deserves a longer run than two days.

Unleashed is running at the Barbican, London, 23 Nov - 24 Nov.

Watch rehearsals for Unleashed:

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  • George Duker. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Nicole Antoine-Annan. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Jordan Franklin. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Kieron Rennie. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Ernest Hammond. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Kareem Parkins-Brown. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Duane Kitaka. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Kareem Parkins-Brown. (Credit: Mark Allan)

  • Kieron Rennie. (Credit: Mark Allan)

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