Billed as a ‘rap opera’, Markus the Sadist tells the story of a talented young battle MC from South London who is picked up by a scheming A&R with the promise of fame and wealth. The dialogue is delivered to a large extent through rhyme, with quite a bit of rapping throughout. The composer and musical director of the show is talented musician Soweto Kinch, and with Jonzi D as artistic director, the play has a strong team behind it.
Bashy shines as lead character Markus, a Brixton rapper whose mother advises him to “put down the mic” and concentrate on his studies and focus on getting a conventional career. Nolan Weekes also stands out as cunning A&R man Top Blizzy, representing the darker side of the industry, persuading Markus to change his British accent to an American one and convincing him that those that spend money on records, “don’t want to hear a nerd spit”. He gives Markus the moniker which he subsequently adopts, and when one of the characters point out that Markus is “such a nice boy”, Blizzy slyly says, “leave that to me”.
The audience were clearly very involved in the action on stage, cheering along and responding in all the right places, and when Bashy’s character’s trousers dropped, all the girls whooped and applauded, cementing his place as a real UK sex symbol.
While the play is a satire of the music industry, illustrating how rappers often have to change their style in order to become popular, there are parts that are somewhat silly and over the top. An example is that in the modern world of UK rap, whilst it is true that many artists who make it sound different to how they did before reaching commercial popularity, it is not a given that they are required to change their accent to sound American, something which was more common in previous decades. As a play that is set in 2004, this seemed like a somehow outdated and unbelievable addition to the story, although it did add an element of humour to the show. The new lyrics Markus adopts are also a bit ridiculous, but then as a satire, perhaps this is required in order to deliver the underlying message clearly and concisely.
After taking Blizzy’s advice, Markus’ transformation is rapid and he needs little persuading, perhaps serving to show how desperate many artists are to make it, regardless of the costs. He soon becomes an international superstar, and it is apparent that a choice has been made between being a nice person and becoming a rap mogul. The story then takes an unanticipated twist, and the ending is even more unexpected, making this is an entertaining show which kept the audience involved throughout.