(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/14.)

The gold-plated cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is flipped on its head in “Brand New Ancients,” the thrillingly good, genre-bending show from the young British writer and performer Kate Tempest, at St. Ann’s Warehouse through Sunday. As Ms. Tempest’s gorgeous streams of words flow out, they conjure a story so vivid it’s as if you had a state-of-the-art Blu-ray player stuffed into your brain, projecting image after image that sears itself into your consciousness. Both as writer and performer, Ms. Tempest stitches together words with such animate grace that language acquires an almost tactile quality, and the drama she unfolds — of betrayal, disappointment and violence among a handful of not especially special London dwellers — soars to operatic dimensions.

Finding the majesty and mystery in ordinary lives is precisely the aim of “Brand New Ancients,” which is being presented as part of the Under the Radar festival after winning acclaim at the Battersea Arts Center in south London, and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Ms. Tempest, whose writing straddles the line between spoken-word verse and solo drama, won the prestigious Ted Hughes Award last year. ) In the lyrical prologue that precedes the central narrative, Ms. Tempest invokes the “plight of a people who have forgotten their myths, and imagine that somehow, now is all there is.”

 (Read more)


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