The Rebel Cell

'The Rebel Cell' is a cerebral, savvy production that explores our modern social contract with vivacity and zeal.

★★★★
archive review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 06 Aug 2008
33330 large
102793 original

Adopting the now-fashionable context of the British dystopia, heady hip-hopera The Rebel Cell postulates a United Kingdom reeling from the effects of a devastating bombing campaign during the 2012 Olympics, leaving 600 dead. The subsequent crackdown on civil liberties has spawned a counter-culture, no-logo figurehead known only as Dizraeli. The plot of The Rebel Cell charts the rhymed, Socratic clashes between Dizraeli and his ex-rapping partner, Baba Brinkman, now a renowned journalist and social commentator. The two are immensely watchable, and deliver their rhymes with palpable passion.

A smug newsreader provides the exposition, accompanied by Armando Ianucci-style futurisms and a lazy hip-hop beat that provides a nifty change of pace from the flighty, high-octane lyrical content of Rebel Cell's two performers. There's plenty of pleasing self-referentiality, and the intellectual tenor of the rapping rarely seems self-involved, or excessively preachy. Occasionally, however, the show does too much – the plethora of literary references can become overwhelming and the time-warping narrative labours an otherwise compelling plot.

Despite this, the performers flirt with the fourth wall with admirable confidence. Taking breaks from the over-arching narrative, Brinkman and Dizraeli de-construct modern myths about hip-hop and the problem of protest in their vision of post-Cameron Britain.

Never too proud to question its own aims and arguments, The Rebel Cell is a cerebral, savvy production that explores our modern social contract with vivacity and zeal.