Secrets shared with a social worker only to become common knowledge at school the next day, Transformers and Coke, a recurring dream, wearing Nicks not Nike, a timely intervention through finding Hamlet, these are just a few of the stories Conrad Murray shares in Denmarked, writes Michelle Dee.
Opening the seventh Heads Up Festival is the Battersea Arts Centre touring network show Denmarked at Kardomah 94. An autobiographical work where singer/poet/performer Conrad Murray, takes the audience on a deeply personal journey, through a series of memories and life experiences each section headlined, like thoughts pulled together that create the whole person.
Through song, spoken word and storytelling, with beat box layers, Conrad works on all his demons. Growing up on a tough London estate he is expected to fail, to go to prison just like his abusive father. “I dream I’m in prison like him,” says the young boy of five, twelve and older. Connecting with the audience you feel the emotion in his voice, the heartfelt cry and you wonder how he did survive.
During the show he poses the question can we escape the influence of the previous generation, or can you escape from the shadows they cast. Mashing up conventional forms of memoir Conrad takes us on a deeply personal journey, sharing good and bad with the same honesty and candour.
Conrad explains that his family aren’t readers – ‘No books only crooks’ he sings in remarkably melodic tone – but they understood the power of handing down stories orally, from one generation to the next, mythmaking from the street.
Picking out an R&B groove on a guitar he raises his voice, creating layers of voice and sound with the loop station at his fingers.
The estate and the characters that inhabit it, are brought vividly to life as he shares his boyhood fears, dreams and disasters. Conrad is the real thing for sure his stage presence, deft wordsmithery, with shades of classicism, have taken him far away from the Happy Shopper imitation days.
On Friday Conrad will be in the classroom once again at Wilberforce College delivering workshops before a second performance of Denmarked at the school.