Review: Content by Mixy @ The Albion Beatnik 04/09/12
– reviewed by James Webster –
Who is Mixy?
Why, MC Mixy is one half of The Dead Poets (the rap and poetry duo that Sabotage have reviewed before)! He is also a talented solo performer, indeed his one-man show, Content, was one of the Spoken Word successes of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, given four stars by the Scotsman who said his show made “Mike Skinner of The Streets look decidedly average”. Having missed the show in Edinburgh, I was really happy to get to see it in a performance in Oxford back in September (massive ap0logies for the delay).
He sounds awesome, anyone else cool there?
Well, he was supported ably by Lucy Ayrton’s intricately rhymed rebelliousness and Claire Trévien’s lyrical turns of phrase, so it was a very enjoyable evening. But the main attraction was Mixy rattling through his spit-fire mix of rap and poetry, linked together with engaging and amusing anecdotes.
Amusing? So he’s funny too?
Yup. Of particular amusement was his ongoing conceit that he was dating the audience, even giving us an endearing nickname ‘Chinchilla-hips’, which elicited plenty of chortles throughout the evening (even if in the end he did leave us for another audience, the bastard).
So he pretended to be in a relationship with the audience?
Yeah, he did, it was both funny and appropriate, as a great deal of the show dealt with Mixy’s relationships, in particular one relationship that was especially momentous for him in how it interplayed with his ongoing happiness. He set the tone for this with his first piece, ‘Upbeat’, a nice avowal of taking life lightly, with inspired rhyme punching out like the click-clack of a typewriter.
But it’s not all upbeat, right?
Indeed not. Another aspect of his life that informs the show is his anecdote of having been ‘born stillborn’ and having to be resuscitated at birth, which is a superbly gripping story, out of which comes some excellent poetry. One such piece is a hugely entertaining conversational rap-battle between himself and Dr Stix, the doctor who saved his life when he was born, and is really the crux of the show. Mixy indulges his pessimistic streak and the depression of having messed up the relationship he cared about to confront the doctor, essentially asking ‘how dare you bring me into this unjust world’ and the doctor’s response is fun, clever and life-affirming. From the entertaining put-down ‘the first thing you did was shit on me’ to the simple ‘are you telling me you never made anyone happy?’ the doctor’s no-nonsense approach is an effective foil to Mixy’s self-loathing.
And he does do the self-loathing thing very well, capturing the romantic self-pity evocatively and insightfully, eloquently wallowing in his misery (‘words cut through my side like a blunt knife’) while remaining just self-aware enough to wonder if maybe he should take responsibility for his own unhappiness.
So the show’s about him being, y’know, a bit unhappy?
No, it’s far more poignant than that. Ultimately, Mixy’s meditations on what it means to be happy and on the consequences of your own behaviour is what the show’s all about, and his trance number towards the end ‘For Granted’ in which his words floated between the music, hitting each beat like a featherweight boxer, did a good job of summing this up. Saying we should ‘thank those who break our heart’ and that ‘we all come at a cost’, it was a powerful celebration of all the experiences, good and bad, that made him who he is.
So it’s all good in the hood?
All good in the what? Ahem, well the show’s not exactly flawless. Where the show possibly suffers is in the details of the relationship. The story of how they met and got together does come with some fun poems about working in a call centre (‘I rock that telephone headset with elegance’) and messing up a job interview by being too candid about your flaws (a dirtily self-denigrating rap, the opposite of gangster-rap arrogance, that’s a bit like Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ but for a hip-hop audience). But at points it feels like he’s dwelling on the details too much and you lose the sense of how it fits into his overarching narrative, becoming just a story about a relationship that ends badly because of his ubiquitously dick-ish behaviour. As such, the show sags a little in the middle and his messy story of a night out with a colleague that goes too far, while amusing, lacks the insight and weight of his other pieces. Plus, now and again there were a couple of off-colour jokes at the expense of women that I found off-putting, but that might just be me.
But overall it’s a good show?
Absolutely. One might even say very good. His winning nature keeps the audience with him and the wordplay, rhythms and emotional resonance of his stronger pieces more than make up for the occasional filler.
In the end he leaves it on a bittersweet note that is very appropriate for the show. ‘Wet Summer’ lets the words spill over a forlorn backing track to great effect, showing nostalgia for a relationship that ‘swerved and it crashed’ but bearing in mind that some clashing is inevitable in relationships and even though ‘we remember pain so well’ he stresses the way love can be rewarding as anyone will ‘know if you’ve ever been a half of a whole’.
Whether self-indulgently sad, aggressively self-deprecating or powerfully life-affirming, this is a show that hits highs and lows of emotion that are skilfully expressed and eminently relatable.