t pf t b b pf t. b t pf t b b pf t : the throat laps from the beatboxer MC Zani, hoodie -hunched over his mic.
A spotlight on a tall uncertain youth, his arms dangling and useless. But someone throws him a ball and. He ducks, he dives, he leaps- pat!
Then, wonderful hell, his four team mates in a hip hop strut, dance their celebration.
If basketball is anything, it’s tribal. If anything, it’s as much a street game as hip hop is a street culture. And far across the train tracks on a court in New Cross, it is also where the history of Africans, race relations and the game dance around each other in a suite of their own.
‘Basketball has story origins’ shoots out one of the players as they describe, in a mixture of slam and traditional poetry by Jacob Sam-La Rose and Nii Ayikwei Parkes, complied by Inua Ellams, their converging paths to a court in South London and a game that calls for Promethean heroes. But this mash up of beatbox, ‘fresh’ poetry and hip hop in The Spalding Suite, Fuel’s hour long showcase on basketball subculture, might seem suspended by its ambition as much as one of the young players who hangs in space, arrested in mid flight so we can admire his 6 foot stature and 7% body fat.
For, even as we learn about the boys’ ambitions, their personal histories, even as one man’s story finally becomes the narrative ‘power forward’ of the piece, it feels too much in slow-motion. Its dramatic ‘geometry’ doesn’t quite match the punchiness, velocity and redemptive release of the game itself: all we can do is admire. But it is a visual and audio spectacle for all that and its message of hope, even if a little simplistic, garners roars of appreciation from its young multicultural audience.