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Guest Blog: Casey Bailey On GRIMEBOY at Birmingham Rep

The new play from the Birmingham Poet Laureate

Guest Blog: Casey Bailey On GRIMEBOY at Birmingham Rep
Casey Bailey

What separates the greatest grime MC of all time from the people who have held the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? This is a question that has rumbled in my brain from the moment of inception of the idea that has grown into GrimeBoy.

Well, if we are to assume that the greatest grime MC of all time is Kano (and we most certainly will), then we could look at the Prime Ministers who have held the position in his lifetime as a reference point. All but two of the Prime Ministers in this time were educated at Oxford, one of those two was a Scottish-born Prime Minister, educated at Edinburgh (widely seen as the Scottish equivalent to Oxford).

When we talk of rising to the heights of Prime Minister and when we talk about the pitfalls that are not a rarity for young people growing up in the London borough of Newham - where Kano hails from - we often get stuck on the importance of ambition and lose track of the impact of access. Who does Kano become if he is educated at Eton and Oxford? The intelligence and ambition of the man are undeniable, but they never drove him to 10 Downing Street.

The man who grew a short distance from grime heavyweights like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Ghetts and Lethal B, set his sights on a different trophy. For Kano the judgment attached to those who aspire to reach grime greatness, does little to dim his shine, but many never reach the light like he did. Many felt the negative impact of access, when that access was not to rich donors and lifelong business connections, but instead to the drugs and gangs that have found rich soil in the places that have been scarred by poverty in this country.

Guest Blog: Casey Bailey On GRIMEBOY at Birmingham Rep

This is not the story of GrimeBoy, but it is a question I kept in mind in the writing of a show that is close to my heart. As a boy who aspired to Kano-esque success and skated on the thin ice of the many pitfalls of inner-city life, I know this is more than just a story.

The weight of responsibility that I felt when writing this work has made me eternally grateful for the team that I have worked with on it. As a poet, I have become accustomed to a process of shutting the world out and creating. Often, especially when working towards publication, I will get the opinion of trusted friends and an editor, but the work is always mine. In the process I have been through to create GrimeBoy, I have moved from working on my play to working with a team on our play.

Working with Madeleine Kludje (director) has opened my eyes to the wondrous possibilities of theatre. "Casey we don't need to say 'X', we can just do 'Y'" has become one of my favourite things to hear. Maddi's eye for detail and focus on what each moment adds to the story has helped me to refine this story beyond what I thought it could be. When you add to this an amazing team of actors, who all bring additional talents to the process, the musical majesty that is Auden Allen and brilliant team of creatives around setting, lighting, and sound you have a real recipe for something special.

Within all of this talent, and months of work, I have tried to remain locked on the questions around environment and our thoughts on success that drove so much of the early thinking on this project. I don't envisage that GrimeBoy will leave an audience with answers, but I do hope some of these questions will leave the room and enter the world after the curtain call.

GrimeBoy is at Birmingham Rep 14-30 April - book tickets here

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