(I)SLAND T(RAP) The Epic Remixology of the Odyssey

ZanziBar, 311 George Street, Dunedin

21/03/2019 - 24/03/2019

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

14/03/2019 - 18/03/2019

The Third Eye, 30 Arthur St, Te Aro, Wellington

11/03/2020 - 14/03/2020

NZ Fringe Festival 2020

Dunedin Fringe 2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

(I)sland T(rap): The Epic Remixology of the Odyssey is a tour-de-force, solo-soul journey mash-up of lyrical and mythical proportions.

This Original Hip-Hop dramedy adaptation – inspired in part by Homer’s Odyssey, Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book, Romare Bearden’s collage art, and Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth – tracks Black Ulysses as he sets off on an epic voyage from a hostile society mired in gun violence, racial oppression and systematic discrimination.

Through an interwoven narrative of live music (ukele), poetry (spoken word), and animal characterisations, Black Ulysses is empowered to discover his true artistic home where his raps can effortlessly flow. With the aid of a wise old lobster and a brave panther mama, his epic journey takes him through the straits of self doubt and self worth as he seeks, through re-engagement with community, to find and reveal his authentic self.

Please Note: NZ Fringe 2019 tickets are no longer available for this show. To purchase tickets online go to BATS Theatre or call (04) 802 4175

BATS Theatre – The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Thursday 14 – Monday 18 March 2019
Book Now 

ZanziBar, 311 George Street, Dunedin
THU 21 – SUN 24 March 2019
$8.00 – $12.00
*Fees may apply 

NZ Fringe 2020 

WINNER of TEN awards at the American College Theatre Festival in Washington DC, including Hip Hop Theatre Award and Outstanding New Playscript.

BEST SHOW WINNER – San Diego International Fringe Festival, 2018.


The Third Eye, 30 Arthur St, Te Aro
Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 March 2020
Price General Admission $20.00 Concession $15.00 Fringe Addict $14.00

Theatre , Hiphop ,

1 hr

Exotic, witty and memorable characters

Review by Teuila Tualaulelei 13th Mar 2020

Austin Dean Ashford, a black American poet-dynamo, takes the audience to his ‘Austin in Wonderland’ – a sultry, steamy, witty, musical and rhythmic, comical, heartfelt and funky journey. This is a ‘Black Ulysses’ Odyssey that traverses racial discrimination, slaughtered dreams, violent and hopeless lives in the US of A.  

“Dr King spoke of the dream, but he didn’t tell of the nightmare.” Ashford also shares his ‘nightmare’ in a tour-de-force, mind and genre-bending magical carpet ride.

Using breathtaking poetry, average ukulele playing (part of the charm), beat boxing, physical theatre, song and dance, we are transported to ‘Island Trap’ but also to share Ashford’s and other black men’s experiences: the anguish and danger, the pain, and the survival skills needed to be a mentally strong, black man.

“You’re not a gangster or an athlete…,” purrs Panther. Yes, your own people can knock you, too, Ashford seems to be saying.

Panther almost steals the show, for me, until Python appears, and a threatened death-by-python-strangulation showcases (I)sland (T)rap‘s success: “Everyone wants to shine like a diamond – not everyone wants to be cut…”

(I)sland (T)rap is Austin Dean Ashford’s diamond ‘cuts’ which reveals his brilliant physical theatre abilities, his musical and comical timing, and his searing poetry that transports you on his artistic and historical journey as a black man in the USA.

Featuring a slew – even a menagerie – of exotic, witty and memorable characters, Austin Dean Ashford shows us why his solo show (I)sland (T)rap won Best Show at the 2018 San Diego Fringe Festival and two-time Most Outstanding Performance Winner at the NZ and Dunedin Fringe Festivals. A Netflix deal is apparently in the works which is excellent news as Ashford has the talent and drive to be a bona fide star. 


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To the edge of discomfort without tipping over

Review by Hannah Molloy 22nd Mar 2019

Austin Dean Ashford’s one man show in tiny ZanziBar is exactly the entirely topical but still hugely entertaining start to the Fringe that I’ve needed.

(I)sland T(Rap): The Epic Remixology Of The Odyssey is described as “a mythical, lyrical, musical solo-performance with spoken-word and hiphop fused with live ukelele that follows Black Ulysses on a soulquest to an exotic island in an escape from a hostile society rife with discrimination and gun violence.”

It suits the mood of the city perfectly, covering what can be very dark threads of entrenched racism, mental illness – “I’m not anti-social, but anti-depressive” – and lack of self-belief with aplomb and confidence, grounded in a willingness to change and grow. It’s a different story to the one we’re living in New Zealand right now, but it’s the same narrative. 

Ashford slips effortlessly between the ten or so characters, some of which are animals and some mythical creatures, sometimes with just a tilt of an eyebrow or a slink of his hips. His lyrics are sharp and aggressive, driven home with those eyebrows and beatbox punctuation. His ukulele melodies are by turn sweet, discordant and beautiful.

The arc of the show feels a little like the arc of a panic attack – it starts small and surreptitious, building to its crescendo of out of control mania, before rolling back, leaving you feeling depleted. (To be clear, the depletion after (I)sland T(Rap) is a positive feeling rather than otherwise.)

Ashford makes full and uncompromising eye contact with his audience, taking them to the edge of discomfort but never tipping them over. And his overt pleasure at the raucous standing ovation is palpable – so much so he called his mum so she could hear us sing his words (and also happy birthday to him).

Definitely one to see this Fringe. 


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Magical journey through death, racism, violence and black identity

Review by Ines Maria Almeida 15th Mar 2019

I’ve got to admit I wasn’t expecting a solo performance with such personal issues when I walked up to the HeyDay Dome at BATS to watch Austin Dean Ashford perform (I)sland T(rap): The Epic Remixology of the Odyssey. Ashford seamlessly mixes a beautiful fantasy with rap music, and the stark reality of being a black man in America today. He takes a grim situation and infuses it with hope and magic.

Ashford has adapted his performance from Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey – which I know is epic only from pop culture references (like The Simpsons) because I’ve never read any Homer (24 books for one poem!) and at points I feel that I’d ‘get’ the performance better if I knew the original story better.

That said, Ashford’s spin on leaving his home to go on an epic adventure is perhaps a better story. Bold statement, yes. But I do my research: Homer’s Odyssey was likely composed near the end of the 8th Century and is a Greek epic poem that tells of the return journey of Odysseus to the island of Ithaca from the 10 year war at Troy. Odysseus spends another 10 years getting home facing challenges like monsters (Cyclops!), a visit to the afterlife, cannibals, drugs, alluring women, and Poseidon.

Ashford’s take includes challenges too, but of the sort that many black people face in MAGA’s America – i.e. constant harassment and racism. He plays all of his characters on a sparse stage, the only props some rocks, a chair, and a bandage. Oh, and a ukelele, of course. He plays a crack-up lobster, an empathetic panther, evil python and a tropical fox, as well as himself and his father.

As he goes through his journey, Ashford reflects on topics close to him such as death, racism, violence and black identity – all to a background of mad beats (including that of his heart) and the sweet sounds of his uke. Just when the strings lull me into a state of being ready for a nap, Ashford jolts me awake with his rhymes that may as well be from Kanye, Drake, and other modern greats.

His personal epic journey is a trip for the audience too, as Ashford puts his various artistic skills on display: he’s at once an actor, singer, rapper, beatboxer and musician. At times it’s hard to keep up, he’s changing character so much, but his OTT presence carries the entire production from beginning to end.

Just when the fantasy feels a bit too much and the popular psychology quips feel syrupy, Ashford brings his audience back by revealing his brutal fears about being a modern black man. Most impressively, he’s able to get a room full of Kiwis, who are a notoriously reserved people to clap and sing refrains like “Whoomp there it is” as he raps.

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. 


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