Mark Grist

Former Peterborough English teacher packs a poetic punch like Shakespeare on acid

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
11.43 AM

REVIEW: Mark Grist at the Key Theatre, Peterborough. The power of the spoken word is a skill often lost on modern day audiences fed a diet of noise, lights and action, so to sit in the show of a former English teacher, turned rapper and comedy poet was both refreshing and uplifting.

In this one man show, that has successfully toured the UK, Mark Grist, who one can only imagine was a whirlwind of inspirational brilliance in the corridors of the secondary school where he used to work, charted his rise from classroom character tutor to poetry rock star.

His career journey is littered with a rap battle in a seedy Peterborough nightclub in which the snap-back, cap-wearing urban crew nicknamed him “Suit Dude”, a University tutor who slated his most popular poem saying it was going nowhere (Girls Who Read) and a personal challenge to find as many rhymes for the word ginger in a poem about the oft maligned hair colour.

All recounted with such natural ability that it leaves the audience wondering how the hell one man’s brain runs so fast and with such eloquence.

A likable bloke, Grist could easily be another punter in the pub but when he opens his mouth the inspiration tumbles forth from an invisible mighty pen.

His words have a rhythmic ring that make you want to listen. At the end of the show the biggest lesson? Be true to yourself, follow your dreams, if it feels right then it probably is.

Maybe this was intentional, maybe not – but for one Fen journalist it was a striking and powerful theme.

Grist, who was told by a Goldmsith’s University lecturer that his poems had childish rhymes and what on earth was he thinking, is an up and coming genius of a writer.

He has won the Edinburgh Fringe Slam Champion award, was Chief Bard of The Fens in 2009 and is an educational consultant giving poetry workshops to secondary school students across the UK.

A surprise hands-down winner in a rap battle against a Manchester teenager called Blizzard in a You Tube clip that went viral in 2012, Grist had a crowd of young rap fans eating out of his hands as he was cheered on while spitting rhymes like Shakespeare on acid.

The video leaves a lasting impression as a regular nice guy with a rapier wit and cutting edge verbosity.

Long may he continue...his show was poetic genius and in his words, maybe his legacy will be to put Peterborough on the map for something more interesting than having a massive Ikea distribution warehouse but no shopping store.