On 18 January, Suli Breaks performed the first show of his Not A Role Model tour.
The show opened to an excited crowd of 200 people at the University of Birmingham’s Guild Hall with spoken word artists Wuzzamill, Aliyah Deen, and Sophia Thakur. Their pieces explored a range of topics such as living in Birmingham when you are from a different country, what it means to be a young person in today’s generation, and falling in love, all the while hyping up the audience for Suli’s set.
— Not A Role Model (@sulibreaks) January 17, 2017
Once the supporting acts had finished, it was Suli’s turn to take to the stage. Suli incorporated a range of different elements to create a performance, making it both entertaining and unique. As an audience member, you are a “passenger on a bus” with Suli to his home in Wood Green, London. The show portrays this through real-life film clips and narration by Suli and the bus itself, a combination which evokes the hard-hitting and modern style of Suli’s YouTube videos.
As well as the added visual and auditory elements, live music by Mike Keys and single works by AyoWrote and Caleb Femi complemented Suli’s performance of poems such as The Graveyard, R.I.P [Rewind It Please], and I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate.
Between poems, Suli spoke directly to the audience, developing what felt like an extremely personal relationship over the course of the evening. He discussed a wide range of topics, including John Boyega (Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens), how expensive getting married is, and most importantly, what it means to be a role model. This was the running theme throughout the show, with Suli talking at length about how being behind a screen creates a pressure to be the perfect role model for everyone watching.
Speaking to TenEighty about the show, Suli said, “Birmingham is always a city that I come to and people show love. I feel like there’s so much synergy between what we go through in London and what happens in Birmingham. I like the fact that people were able to connect with a lot of the references and content.”
Looking at the number of people who clapped, gasped, shouted, and (in one memorable instance) burst into tears during the show, Suli demonstrated how – even if he wouldn’t describe himself as a role model – he is certainly an inspiration to many.
Photo by Olly Newport.