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  Life   Art  01 Mar 2017  Aye hip-hopera

Aye hip-hopera

Published : Mar 1, 2017, 1:44 am IST
Updated : Mar 1, 2017, 1:51 am IST

The play features Toronto native Sebastien Heins essaying the roles of two rapper brothers.

Stills from Brotherhood, which was staged in Mumbai on February 24, 25. (Photo: Dakot Arsenault)
 Stills from Brotherhood, which was staged in Mumbai on February 24, 25. (Photo: Dakot Arsenault)

Last weekend, Sitara Studios, Lower Parel witnessed a unique and energetic one-man theatrical performance titled Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, featuring the talents of 27-year-old Toronto native Sebastien Heins essaying the roles of two rapper brothers living life in the fast lane. Themed on family and guilt, among other things, the play has received its fair share of acclaim.

Speaking to this correspondent in an email conversation ahead of the performance, the actor-writer said, “My mom is Jamaican and my dad is German. I got my start in theatre in The Lion King, playing young Simba. Since then I’ve been chasing the thrill of being on stage, and taking every opportunity to work with the best, most dedicated actors and artists I can find in theatre, film, and now virtual reality. I’ve been very lucky, and very fulfilled by my profession...and very confused, frustrated, and doubtful too!”

A hip-hop fan, Sebastien wanted his favourite style of music to be in his art. “I took inspiration from Slick Rick’s hip-hop storytelling style — look up Children’s Story — and the Isley Brothers. They tell stories while rapping and singing R’n’B,” he said.

Elaborating on how his story came about, the young thespian said, “The initial idea came from a burning question, ‘What if I had had a brother?’ That question spurred on more questions like, ‘Which one of us would our parents like more?’ and ‘Would we be friends into our old age?’ Then, I played some of my favourite hip-hop and R’n’B tracks in a studio, and started improvising, moving with the music. Out of those improvisations, I came up with a car crash, angels and time travel. It was from the movement that a lot of the story came about. With my first director and developer, Adam Lazarus, he would interview me as different characters and record our conversations. It was out of many of those improvisations that the arc of characters was revealed.”

It was Chicago crooner R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet series of songs that the National Theatre School of Canada graduate looked to while bringing his brainchild to life. “I liked the way he sang the story, while the music bumped along, and played all the different characters with ease. There’s a bit of that in Brotherhood,” said the performer. Sebastien added that he and his director, Karin Randoja, would email each other a lot of music videos and interviews with rappers like Lil Wayne and Rae Sremmurd. Sebastien said he came to India about a year ago for Thespo, an annual youth theatre movement, to lead a workshop on hip-hop theatre creation and to showcase a few scenes from Brotherhood to Indian presenters. This time around, he said he was looking forward to talking to people after the show, hearing their stories, and learning more about Indian hip-hop culture.

So, what’s next for the performer after the Brotherhood shows in India? “Two days after we get back to Canada, I start rehearsals for The School for Scandal and Timon of Athens at the Stratford Festival. Quick turnaround!” said the artiste.

Tags: theatre, hip hop, hip hopera