Manchester international festival; available online
A dazzling video follow-up to the actor and rapper’s album raises disturbing questions about modern Britain
“I don’t really know what I’m doing,” lies Riz Ahmed at the start of this virtuosic display of his considerable talents. Part music video, part call to arms, this Manchester international festival event follows on from last year’s album of the same name, which likened the UK’s increasing hostility to immigrants to an abusive relationship, and an accompanying short film that envisaged a shocking near-future reality.
Originally broadcast last December from a deserted and supposedly haunted San Francisco theatre, the performance begins with an illusion of spontaneity – Ahmed sharing his pre-show backstage rituals – but gradually reveals a carefully choreographed mix of spoken-word poetry, storytelling and striking visuals accompanied by thrilling hip-hop beats, including a hard-hitting rendition of album highlight Toba Tek Singh. Ahmed is a magnetic presence: his prodigious wordplay and rapping prowess combine in a high-octane performance brimming with righteous anger that brings to mind Childish Gambino’s This Is America.