High Rise eState of Mind: Love and Honesty in the Midst of London's Neoliberal Housing Crisis


Katie Beswick


This article focuses on High Rise eState of Mind, a devised ensemble hip hop performance developed by the Beats & Elements theatre company between 2017 and 2019, and later performed online during the Covid-19 pandemic (Manchester HOME 2020). The performance explores the impact of housing injustice on working-class millennial Londoners, shedding light on the ways in which the overarching neoliberal order produces systemic inequities. While processes of gentrification in London have been well documented since the 1970s, from the turn of the twenty-first century, and with increasing velocity post the 2012 Olympics, working-class areas of London have undergone such huge and unprecedented change that the effects of gentrification across and within discrete districts might now be framed as evidence of a housing crisis in the city. This is exacerbated by consumptive neoliberal conditions, which produce mistrust and can have deadly effects, such as the Grenfell Tower fire in west London in 2017, where seventy-two people lost their lives. Here, I explore the ways in which High Rise eState of Mind in both process and performance makes use of love and truth in order to expose and also to to help spectators to bear the corrosive and frequently tragic effects of the neoliberal housing crisis. Using the work of Hannah Arendt, Adrienne Rich, and bell hooks, I ask how working-class Londoners are using arts practices embedded in ethics of love and honesty to respond to housing precarity, and explore the ways in which modes of knowing produced through hip hop might help us to live joyfully in London in the twenty-first century.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.