Thanks to my recent trip to In the Heights, my love for spoken word continues to soar. Watching performers wrap their tongues around our English language, they load words with bullets, aim with heart and fire with emotion. Ricocheting off an eager audience, the stage is the stadium for a lyrical battle cry.
Constantly daring myself to rant with rhythm and rhyme, I love to play with the written word but scared to speak it. Every blog post I write, I read my words out aloud, thinking you can hear me as I type. I accept my bedroom’s silence yet I hope, someday, I will have the balls to perform on a stage or brave my face on screen.
Wanting to watch a wordy genius live, I literally ran from Farringdon Station to Exmouth Market Theatre to watch Mark Grist’s Rogue Teacher. Guided by Google Maps, the Tellit Festival team welcomed me into such a cute venue with hanging fairy lights and what appeared to be, to my horror, Christmas decorations! Anyway, I was gutted to miss Grist’s show at The Hawth (my local theatre) in 2014 so I was thankful to catch it before he jets off on his Red Bull adventures.
Dubbed as ‘an internet sensation’ (Sun) and ‘unlikely heart-throb’ (The Guardian), Mark Grist went from being an English teacher to defeating a grime artist in a ‘student vs teacher’ rap battle that attracted over 4 million hits on YouTube. In his one man show, Rogue Teacher, Mark takes you on a journey from over enthusiastic English teacher to world-wide rap battle sensation, as he leaves teaching to pursue his life long dream of being a full time artist.
This is a laugh out loud roller coaster ride of an adventure, combined with one of the most honest and absorbing stories you’ve ever heard. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never look at English teachers in the same way again.
Forget X Factor’s Honey G, Mark Grist was a true wordsworth, rapping with onomatopoeia and letting rip upon the textbooks. He performed with love and determination, injecting his anecdotes with showcases of work. With a sly smirk, his wordy beats spun humour with decks of intelligence. Repetition hollered sarcasm, alliteration applauded obliteration and sonnets welcomed the soul.
Expecting a continuous stream of performance, the snapbacks of hip hop and poetry made his mouth transform into a roadrunner. Switching up his chillaxed attitude, poetry waves red and a feisty poet replaces Mr Nice Guy in a suit. Bursting out into free verse, he excites and delights his audience with giant figures of speech. Like Romesh Ranganathan (Maths teacher now comedian), these teachers are some wicked badasses, bopping down the corridor with newly found swagger.
The man has the gift of the gab and kept the memories of lectures and detentions at bay. Thanks to the dramatic monologues, Grist was entertaining and a real genuine, down to earth guy. Destroying the lonely poet’s corner, Grist slammed dunked the sublime and surreal experience. He simply had the poetic license to kill.
Deconstructing and accepting his flaws as a teacher, he believes in his students, especially those on the exclusion firing line. Determined to make his English lessons cool, he’s down the kids and wants to earn his street cred. Transforming his classroom into a creative space for rap battles, his students pushed him into an unexpected industry and made him learn a lesson of rap. Oh the irony!
Loving Grist’s passionate plea for educational recovery, he believes in “successful” and “unsuccessful” feedback, rather than the deathly red biro marks, and questions the examiner’s archaic rulebook. Wishing he was my English teacher, he touched upon the problems of subjectivity within the subject and echoed my thoughts on dismissing creativity. Mocking the teacher lifestyle, he is a firm believer in the “express yourself” culture.
Mark Grist inspired me to be brave and dip in my tongue in the waters of spoken word. Before I preach I’m a born again rap artist, I’m looking out for opportunities to learn the craft of spoken word and will continue to watch performances like these. Keep your ear out for Mark Grist – he is an absolute legend. Respect Sir!