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Tuesday 23rd March 2004
Allegiances and ambition collide.

A mix of basketball and brotherhood collides in this dynamic new hip-hop musical from NITRO; the UK's premier black theatre company.

Everyman Theatre
Tuesday 23rd - Saturday 27th March, 7.45pm




BBC Radio1Xtra


Everyman Theatre


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Cory is the best streetball player on the estate. It's similar to Basketball - now the most popular game on the planet - but edgier, where only the best can shine.

He wants to leave his team, the Zeros, and turn professional. But when his ambition grows teeth and bites back, the dream that kept Cory hoping now threatens to destroy him.

From Swan Lake to Slamdunk - you better believe it!

With an all-male cast of talented amateurs, professional actors and able sportsmen, artistic director of NITRO Felix Cross laughs as makes a comparison that few in his job will ever get to make.

"Sometimes it's like going to a Westlife concert!" he says on what to expect from the enthusiastic band of female fans that have turned up to the show in their droves.

"The front 3 rows are filled with screaming girls, holding up their mobile phones to take pictures.

"Ibsen it ain't."

Cross explains that the idea for the show came to him about six years ago while watching a slo-motion replay of a basketball game on TV.

"I thought my God, this is like ballet. All that was missing was the tights!"

All that's missing is the staple holes and Blu-Tack bulges...

From this seed Cross teamed up with choreographer Benji Reid, and saxophonist Soweto Kinch (whose debut album Conversations with the Unseen was nominated for both the Mercury Music Prize and the MOBO awards) who scored the original music for the show.

The result is an exploration of brotherhood and bonding that occurs on court in addition to loyalties born of family and friendship. It's a notoriously difficult topic to package for the gender and age group concerned, but by utilizing the language and music of MTV - and let's not forget the sight of 10 young, handsome performers, Blazin' Squad stylee - NITRO appear to have struck a geyser of approval.

But beneath the trappings of popular culture, there's an unashamedly classical foundation.

Pride casts a shadow across the young male characters.

"In essence the basis of Slamdunk is the over-arching storyline of Shakespeare's Coriolanus," reveals Felix.

"A story about a great warrior who is supremely skilled, supremely talented and supremely arrogant.

"Someone who deserts his army for the opposing faction, and the consequences that follow."

Early in the development process the team held open casting calls for young black men with no previous acting experience, one of whom - Curtis Flowers - is currently performing in the lead role.

It's indicative of the dearth of talent and enthusiasm that remains largely untapped within communities previously underserved and under represented in this and other spheres of the arts adn entertainment.

But all that's changing.

Did someone call for Charlie's Angels?!

Theatre programmers, radio stations, casting agents, film producers - none can ignore where the needle of popularity swings. Not when the hard cash of ticket and album sales have anything to do with it. So when audiences head towards genres where young black artists hold sway, others must follow.

"Many middle-aged, middle-class critics can't quite understand what's going on when they come along," admits Felix Cross.

"They don't understand the reference points, and many have never even heard of rap. Or if they have, they haven't bothered to listen."

But even those befuddled by the quick-fire patter are agreed on one particular aspect:

"Everyone agrees that the audience is fired with enthusiasm. Sometimes you don't know where to look - on stage, or behind your own shoulder…"

Slamdunk is on from Tuesday 23rd - Saturday 27th March at 7.45pm, The Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.
Matinees: 24 March at 1.30pm and 27 March at 2pm.
Tel: 0151 709 4776. £8-12. Concessions available.

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