REVIEW: Hopelessly Devoted, Arts Centre Washington

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ANYONE who has caught up with Kate Tempest’s work will spot her hall marks on Hopelessly Devoted, a tale of tragedy, love and drama.

The South London poet has had an industrious year.

In addition to this, her second play, she’s turned out a new book, a Mercury-nominated album, live dates with her band and spoken word performances, with more of everything in the pipeline.

I’d seen her at Durham Book Festival, with the packed show leaving me a bit shellshocked. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite as powerful on a stage.

While Hopelessly Devoted did not have the same sucker punch impact on me, I could hear that distinctive intonation and turn of phrase again.

Here she tells the tale of two cellmates – mothers who find love and support from each other and their passion for music – through song, beats and script.

Murderer and domestic violence victim Chess finds a soulmate in thief Serena, but hits a low when Serena gets parole.

She finds light in sessions with a music producer in the prison, and like all modern tales, she wins fame on the outside, when Serena puts a song written for her estranged daughter on YouTube.

The three cast members did a fine job of pulling the story along and lead Sheila Atim’s voice is quite something.

When it came to a close, I had no idea if it had lasted an hour or four – it was about 90 minutes as it turned out.

While I suspect this would have been a sell-out in Newcastle or Durham, just about half the theatre was filled at Arts Centre Washington, which made a real coup by bringing it to our doorstep.

Next time her work tours, I doubt there’ll be much of a look in for tickets.

Here’s hoping it heads Wearside’s way again.