I loved this play! And as I said on my social platforms, it’s probably the best thing I’ve seen this year.
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Being a bit older than my millennial counter-parts - and definitely guilty of not Keeping up with the Kardashians, I was skeptical at first because of the title, including the killing part, but was curious about how a Killing of such an iconic white woman would/ could be justified.
It managed to not only articulate the meaning of the title but did a fabulous job at expressing my inner thoughts and feelings - offering humor as a topping. The writer, Jasmine Lee Jones, unapologetically embraces the rhythm that is Black and British – influenced probably by writers like debbie tucker-green, as well as the British grime scene.
Check out my review Poet in Da Corner that dives deep ito all things grime :)
I also enjoyed the multidimensional meanings of cyber profile names, intersectionality and using the platform of theatre to take us on a journey of understanding Cleo and Kara - the stereotypical Angry, Black Women and what has caused their pain!
Very Clear… or so I thought, especially when the Eastern European couple sat behind me commented on how inciting and educational the titled production had been to them.
I walked out gleaming, and literally Laughed Out Loud throughout. Super grateful that the Royal Court, who has consistently supported my endeavors’ to build my own platform of sharlareviews once again commissioned work around my personal politics.
See my review on SALT.
But as I sat on the tube home, deciphering how I’d articulate what I had experienced; the Evening Standard sat opposite me - opened on a review about this exact play!
Nick Curtis, their reviewer hadn’t had the same experience - and commented that the production was loud and ‘wearing ’, ‘unrooted’ and ‘a clumsy attempt to indict the audience at the end’.
It pushed me out of my own comfortable interpretation into another perspective (which is a commonality for Black Women) and made me become conscious of the moments that may have been exclusive.
His review therefore worked as an opposing/ conflicting view to mine, a perfect balance for a well-rounded review.
It reminded me of one of Cleo’s opening speeches where she describes handing in her essay on “the effects of colonialism of the black female form” and was marked down because she didn’t show “two sides of the argument”.
She comments “Two sides. To slavery! White people be wilin”
And so… I respond… with my...
Seven Methods of Killing White Patriarchal Perspectives:
1. Unrooting is not the end of a relationship but potentially the beginning.
The relationship between Cleo and Kara is clear and very rooted. The opening scene is set in Cleo’s bedroom; they share and discuss intimate details of sexual experiences, break into rhyme and repetitive DJ Khalid rhetoric throughout as well as having a natural fun vibe between them when watching -that I cannot and will not try to quantify!
2. Not just Microcosm worlds but layers to meaning.
The role-play of Twitter users in the Twitterlude scenes are not just a testament to both Tia Bannon (playing Kara) and Danielle Vitalis’ (playing Cleo) acting ability but an example of what I mentioned earlier about one thing meaning many…. “There are levels”
We watch two friends in a room actually play the cyber users - exaggerating a fake reality that is not just the Internet but is also the theatre. So to clarify they are both acting as these people as well as mocking these people... simultaneously. This point was definitely missed by our friend of the Evening Standard – and his comment about the ending which I will explore in 7) exposed this!
Pause - It is this linear (basic) way of thinking that is at fault here – and I see this way of thinking as very masculine in energy and western in logic.
3. If we forgive you, will you forgive us?
The taboo surrounding homosexuality and its place in/ outside our community Jasmine cleverly delivers with ease and class. Paying attention to the nuances surrounding marginal voices and calling out hypocrisy! Kara’s character, who is gay, avoids the distracting stereotypes that are usually associated with sexuality and I really enjoyed the strength in her comfortability. I summorise and question the hypocrisy of the linear thinker as...
If racism is a thing of the past I should get over, can you get over my past two homophobic tweets?
4. The stain of racism is called colourism!
Colourism has to be a feature. Because colourism is one of the issues hese friends haven't dealt with. Not 'unrooting' as in lack of depth (suggested by our critic) but 'unrooting' as in uprooting the shit!
Rather than just cast two actors of didn’t shades to tick a neat box, the production deals with the differences of experiences head on. We hear both sides – from being objectified to being invisible. It was a heated debate as the pain (caused by a historical agenda to divide Africans) is the ‘un-rooting’ in the friendship our critic refers to. However, knowing this - with the extra dose of what it means to be a Black woman with a white mother, I see un-rooting in friendship a necessity. It’s called honest communication and if you survive this - what is called a best friend, transforms into a sistren!
5. Idolisation is a sin, especially when you are a God-dess.
Following on from this - the idolisation of Jenner being killed is actually symbolic of Cleo’s feelings of exclusion, bullying and erasure. And I thoroughly enjoyed how Cleo transforms into upholding her own value. This tranformation is initiated by Kara, especially in her temporary absence. From Cleo trying to fight the machine, which for me didn’t just represent Twitter but the system at large, to un-programming and connecting with herself instead. The only cyber space connection being made after the tranformation is a connection with her ancestors.
The pace and volume that our critic found ‘wearing’ may have excluded him, yes – as this is fast paced, vibrant and loud! My fear of not being able to Keep up with the Kardashians were obliviated and cast onto a people who share a marginalised view to not embrace the ways, views, pace and volume of a marginalised source!
6. There's a thing we call #shoutout #payingrespect #standing on the shoulders of.
Homage to the ancestors is paid! Saartjie Bartman is the example Cleo mentions and demonstrates just how the Black body was and still is used for white profit.
Can I tie together realms and ancestors please?
Kara really embodies the evolution of spirituality over religion, sexual freedom and expression - and I also took note that her identity of being mixed race accents this liberation from convention.
The initiation of smoking not just any spliff but a ‘special’ ‘diasporic zoot’ is epic, and demonstrates once again Lee-Jones multi-faceted lateral language.
”… And the rolling paper is from none other than the motherland herself. Ordered the shit on eBay... Lukatar. She’s begging for you to partake”.
7. Glass Ceiling shattered!
At the end, the Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner breaks through a glassed wall that wasn’t put up by us (the marginalised). It plays on the heavenly highness obtained from the 'special spliff', as well as enlightmement developed from two friends reasoning. They see us. All of us... in full light. And yes - it will upset those of whom have worked hard to fit a barrier stopping non-white females to progress or see reality truly – but for me it was the perfect unapologetic punch from new age freedom fighters. To have full permission to write and direct a play from OUR perspective!
Please go and see - The Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner – By Jasmine Lee-Jones and Directed by Milli Bhatia is at the Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 27th July – click the link to book!
Note – My next review will be a Vlog as requested I promise!
Having just finished a very exhausting theatre process – I was super excited when my mentor kindly invited me to see Strange Fruit.
The 3hour play centres around a Mother from the islands that came to London, England in the eighties to start a new life with her two young sons Alvin and Errol.
Alvin and Errol, now in their twenties are searching for their identity, and Alvin – during the first half of the play has travelled back home, as a representative for their family, at his grandfathers funeral. Errol stays behind in London and is working hard to encourage ‘his people’ to strike from work in a time of supreme racial tension.
So that’s the brief premise.
First half and Errol
I struggled with both. And I say this with the up most respect for the hard work of all involved.
Life after my performance of J’ouvert– where I had 5 days of rehearsal before having to be in my underwear, script in hand… in front of an audience, on stage - really has transformed how I assess productions! The process can be extremely brutal, and as an actor you are so vulnerable… so I totally get it!
And so as a disclaimer, having no idea of the actual process, I review this having just watched one performance and no further details.
I struggled primarily with Errol’s character, one of the main characters and the youngest brother aged 21 – the one with his hair in dreadlocks and played by Jonathan Ajayi.
Now, I’ve seen Ajayi in different productions and am a fan of his acting, this history made me really dig deep and question why I was just not warming to his character… so I sat there watching Errol, and in the days after, confronted my feelings of anger, un-comfortableness and the inner ridicule happening internally.
I watched – as Errol spoke and dealt with his mother (his only living parent) too aggressively than the cultural norm.
I watched as he got too close for comfort and at one point I feared he might strike her.
Why so much hate?
Notably, the Black females at the end of my row sniggered several times awkwardly, and whispered to each other as Errol completely overlooked, disrespected and dismissed his white girlfriend, that now stood on stage. A Strange Fruit indeed, but I enjoyed watching Tilly Steele’s (the actress that played her) interpretation of a docile, working class, eighties British girl – whose act of rebellion is to date Black.
Side note – now If I’m honest I think my focus was pulled to Errol – because he was a central character but also because the portrayal of a toxic, aggressive Black male, WITH DREADLOCKS [Check out my 10 and a half loc journey]was overbearing – and as he man handled his girlfriend and poked fun at her simple-ness I sank in my seat.
Further side note… now this family’s story is very much a piece of my own history and so the desire for it to be right is strong. Without sounding like I’m obsessed with how other people view my culture, or that I am just wanting positive representation of my heritage I will say in terms of a play (and indeed life) people are constantly shifting and changing.
Further to this – the idea of a bad, Caliban like, Black man is getting boring and not very accurate.
Without exposing too much of my family history I have experienced domestic violence more than I wish to share, but first hand. In the late eighties in particular, it was a different time from now - and I know plenty of dreadlocked, island men who would beat their women. So I’m aware of reality. However, because I know them - I also know how charming and attractive they are initially, and this certainly was not the case for Errol.
I have no idea why his girlfriend was with him, as simple as she was, she wasn’t stupid and she had the backing of many members of her community, at this time not to be. As well as any absence of fear from Errol of the reprocussions of harming a white woman. A fear that still exits in interacial relationshps today!
Also, these men that I know... the ones Errol's character attempted to reflect, have a fantastic relationship with their mother. And in general, there usually tends to be (on stage and on earth) some niceties within the most evil of humans.
Second half and Alvin
It was not just Errol but all of the characters that, I felt, didn’t go on much of a journey/ shift or change. The mother – whose life Strange Fruit actually centres around – has the most clear character journey, played by Rakie Ayola– however, I don’t think this was intentional.
The second half helped and I’m glad I stayed.
Notably - the Black women mentioned earlier were gone. I got to see the Mother, who started as what we would call a ‘heighty-tighty’ Caribbean woman, lose her height and loosen from her stush-ness to face her very dark reality.
Alvin’s return also offered some depth as he realises that London IS his home, when relatives from the island reject him.
But Errol… remains hateful. And after learning he is going to be a father changes his location but not his attitude. He continues to berate his pregnant girlfriend, despite her decision to go with him to Africa.
Ironically – the mother and girlfriend’s conversation towards the end was a beautiful snapshot of the different attitudes towards success. In a reflective reversal of attitudes expected of the time it is the older, black mother who has chosen independance to her detriment. And the younger white girlfriend who has chosen to stick with a man whose love is questionable to raise their child.
Interestingly enough, neither the director – Nancy Medina or Jonathan Ajayi are of Caribbean decent. And that outside perspective of Black Caribbean British life in the eighties sacrificed inner details, nuances and perspectives that caused me to see distinctly their Strange Fruit indeed!
Let me know what you think.
Strange Fruit at the Bush Theatre until 27thJuly
SALT was highly recommended to me by a friend, I knew nothing about it. And considering how much I actually loved it - it really has become apparent to me how necessary reviews by people that look like me are! As well as being at the Southbank and Edinburgh Festival it has occupied many venues and is now showing at the Royal Court Theatre - until Saturday 1st June.
So when I casually asked my younger brother If he'd like to accompany me to the theatre, I had no idea what it was about... but, we were due a bonding session so off we went.
the black body(S)
Irony or Nah?
We got to the Royal Court early YES...
and although I am a regular in the space, I was slightly on edge with the heavy weight of being the elder sister to my Black Bodied Brother and not knowing what I was exposing him to.
The double shot of JD that he ordered at the bar confirmed he had received my anxiety.
We were early.
See/ Read Between the World and Me for an account on the lens Black people use in this White World to safe guard our abused bodies,
As we took our seats inside the auditorium we realised it was unallocated seats so, having arrived early we still appeared to be late...
Slowly we walked... to the back, where two seats had spaces.
Right at the back of the theatre… behind the majority white bodied people. He looked at me me and I smirked... you know how it is, my eyes said.
As we were seated we noticed another Black Body that occupied the stage – performer Rochelle Rose playing the part of the Woman.
We were pre-warned about the incense as we entered - but actually the smell was a comfort, that along with the plants and the opening monologue relaxed us just they way it does - and our hypersensitivity melted - as we absorbed the story.
“My mother and father, were Rastafarians from Jamaica, who moved to the UK when they were thirteen”
Photo Credit - Johan Persson
white supremacy line
Please check out my book review on Aphro-ism that gives a great account of how we all subscibe to white superiority.
SALT is a one-woman play performed now by Rochelle Rose, that documents Selina Thompson’s actual journey to reconnect with her ancestry by travelling (by boat) to Ghana and Jamaica.
With water being a major theme - it pulls you through a personal encounter and a factual history of the (black) stains and remains of the Empire.
The Title as a metaphor... but the symbolism is multi-layered
A pause before the analysis -
My mind admires and is inspired by meanings and deeper symbolic hidden reasons. And when a theatre piece executes this I am quite literally lost for words.
So lets first start with the definition of SALT
As well as adding flavor > Diversity
Being a natural ancient mineral > Ancestory
It is also, simply a CRYSTAL.
I found a particularly scene effective, that both explained the title and delved deeper into supremacy.
The title - Salt is used as an important visual by the woman to retell the relation-ships on board of the boat. A large block of Salt represented the different teams on board as well as symbolically representing hierarchy, capitalism and the establishment.
The Line of Superiority created by the Woman with the Salt blocks on stage looked like this -
The Crew members
Photo Credit - Johan Persson
The Woman, travels up and down The Line of Superiority repeatedly, smashing the Salt blocks in the physicalisation of the effects of oppression -
The Ones on top
Oppress the ones below
That torture the ones underneath.
[and the Woman's position]
The bottom of the pack - The Artist…
White Supremacy - I think this is the perfect explanation for any person that is confused about how White on Black violence is inseparable to Black on Black violence.
“I’m shouting at her and she’s shouting at me and we’re still at sea in the morning”
What is also interesting is, as the Woman smashes each piece of rock – it is the bottom group… her group, the artist…
the Black Woman
whose piece of rock shatters the most, creating the tiniest pieces… dust almost
Listen here to a poem I wrote on White Superiority
Photo Credits – Johan Persson
Salt - sails us through the disconnection of the people of the diaspora. With the stinging effect that salt has on open wounds.
It aims to cleanse though - and speaks unapologetically for a people whom I'm a part of. The Woman, evolves into an ancestral being - especially towards the end where her nurturing energy offers each audience member a piece of Salt.
She instructs us, that in order to survive we have to find shelter within - as we do not have the privilege in identifying with land. In fact water has been our home!
As the final monlogue ensues, it reminds me of the ancestral moment in Black Panther - I look over at my brother and reflect the personal turmoil we have encounted living in London.
Our Woman is drowning at sea. It is her Gran, the most recent ancestor who pushes her back – back into the body... back into the world, and back onto this land with purpose.
My reflection deepens. And I sit there, my brother to my right, my history infront, massaging my own Rose Quartz around my neck. I start to wonder whether the pink Crystal Salt blocks were strategically used – as it represents love and forgiveness.
I start to wonder whether my late-grandmother has been my encouragement and guide to speak up and out?
And the strength behind "pushing back" the violent waves that try me... try to drown me... into conformity, their normality.
Her name... my grandmother?
C(h)rystal of course.
Overall Story/ Acting
Photo Credit: Alex Brenner
Last month a friend and I were privileged enough to see Fighter by Libby Liburd at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, and I say privileged because... well - in a nut shell, I was pleasantly surprised at the performances, the message and how much I actually engaged.
So to be completely transparent and expose my bias, I have 5 favourite theatres in London. These venues are ones that, over the years, I have attached trust in. Trust to deliver my style of theatre; trust to produce something I wont fall asleep in; Trust that the expense of the ticket will correlate to the quality.
Harsh I know, especially as my whole thing is to eradicate unconscious bias. But an example, of how important it is to acknowledge (and do the work to rectify) your own discriminations.
With this bias now very conscious I had a lovely evening watching this production. I had an educational, humorous experience – and the friend I went with enjoyed it too.
I tussled internally with my bias though, and so I didn’t just get to see a great show – the production caused my development, as not just a critic, but as a person - to evolve.
Now, as an avid reader you know I am all for the dismantling of superiority systems, and I often place myself as a victim of such oppression.
But was going to see a show in a theatre that I didn’t know much about me executing elitism?
Was the fact that an actress that I admire - Cathy Tyson, being a part of the cast bait to my attendance?
Am I a hypocrite?
And so… I started to dig with more provocative questions.
Is this not the same issues Casting Directors, Agents and Reviewers face - and why they miss shows (usually situated in zone 3)?
Or that director that really liked you in the audition chooses her over you... because she’s got a BBC credit?
Is this what I've become?
This is the importance of the shadow work that I talk about in my US review!
My thing is – how can you scream about rights whilst simultaneously acting exclusive and unsupportive to something or someone else? This really made me question my Fight for great productions over large institutions.
Know how to have a loud political voice, platform, presence whilst still executing elitist behavior?
PLEASE Comment below!
Now back to the synopsis - Fighter is about Lee – a single mum, who wants to get fit and decides to do so by joining a gym. Tommy’s boxing Gym to be exact. It’s the 90’s and this boxing gym (alongside many others in Britain) trained males only. It explores a time where women boxers were a novelty. Which subsequently empowers Tommy (the owner of the Gym) to continuously reject Lee’s plea to join.
Lee’s determination and persistence means she eventually is accepted. More so by Tommy’s wife, played by Cathy Tyson. Cathy’s character is an amusing, light-hearted alpha female that adds authority – especially considering the time. What I also enjoyed was the scenes where Tommy left the gym - and scenes at home, orchestrating by his wife provides for a world away from the main stage, the boxing ring - away from the fight.
Photo Credit: Alex Brenner
I absolutely loved the young people, females and males that open the play, in modern day, training at Tommy’s Gym. You walk into the auditorium to an upbeat grime soundtrack that creates a vibrant diverse energy, which immediately brought down my defenses. This quality is something that I seldom feel or experience in my top 5, and was the beginning of my investigation of self as to why I am not seeing more alternative theatre. Now fighter most definitely follows a structure I am most familiar and enjoy, but this inclusion of people – that I have made the assumption belongs to the East London community really warmed my heart and reminded me of the true purpose of theatre.
Pause – Have you checked out my Community page?
For me the title both symbolically and literally followed the Fight of a woman (all women) to take charge of their life, their body, and their children. And the premise of boxing fitted well! We all know and admire the discipline surrounding training every day, eating the correct foods and mental stamina and strength involved in being a successful boxer – and so, you can also use the same exact premise to motherhood.
An interesting moment in Fighter was a monologue by Lee where she tells the story of going to collect her son and school, standing up to his teacher and then losing him when he leaves the school playground. My critical head was on and popping to begin with, especially when Lee begins to be her son. This shift in style from a play with people to now, a sort of one-woman set up threw me. But my immersion was regained, and my critical head quieted, as Lee battled through the emotional turmoil of giving up her Fight because her son didn’t want her to. From potentially being gimmicky transitioned into the natural authenticity Libby Liburd has…. Throughout!
Written and performed by Libby Liburd check out her website here.
Acting and Writing
Fighter was at Stratford Circus from Thursday 25thApril – Saturday 27thApril..
I wasn't able to get up and out to the theatre this month because of a hectic schedule, and being in rehearsals myself!
Performing in Race Today with New Slang productions at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre - I was in 5 out of the 6 plays. The plays were each 15 minutes long, and the project asked writers of colour to responded to the 1970's Race Today magazine.
Watch Tian Glasgow the director and founder of New Slang Productions explain his creation here:
I do have to give a massive #shoutout to Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu for his creation of the Rehabilitation of Allegra Kadeem ( a short play that I am super excited to see at full length). The Rehabilitation of Allegra Kadeem explored the fractured, but colourful mind of Allegra - a 30 year old ex prisoner who is dealing with and recovering from the effects of child abuse and drugs. His writing has this poetic, unique ability to illustrate bold characters, important themes - with a backdrop of vibrant, grime music playing in London.
Catch Tristan at Battersea Arts Centre this June for his return of Sweet Like Chocolate Boy to get a feel of what I mean!
Inside B*tch at the Royal Court was an interesting and unique experience for me. I laughed; I learnt and listened to four women and their account of life inside. Upstairs in the Jerwood Theatre space of the Court the intimate but end on stage was a perfect setting and helped the narrative. Centring around the task to create a TV show on life of women in prison, we follow a description of each women and their particular cell setting, creating a pilot for the show and coming up with character names for themselves.
The Artist, Muvva, Pitbull and Queenie explore how one-dimensional TV shows about female imprisonment can be. From the discrimination they face when getting work after serving their sentence to how uniform was not their actual experience and may contribute to the idea of a boxed and narrow view.
Multimedia, complex and Lateral
The style of the piece is very much like a documentary, which is set right at the start when the fourth wall is broken by TerriAnn Oudjar’s character “Pitbull” - she speaks directly to the audience. Further to this – we learn that these women, although actors, have all spent time inside prison in their real life. I loved this because I think it provides an authenticity that regardless of how much you research you cannot meet. It also leaves no room to discredit.
The purposeful flicker between scenes inside the play and the actress’s actual experience inside prison added texture to the piece and depth to the production as a whole. It demonstrates the talent both in performance and in engaging with real emotion. In addition, the actresses confronting their past and presenting their talent dismantles the linear perspective of the “good”, “right” and “pure” woman and/ or ex-offender!
In one of the scenes whereby they are researching elements for the pilot series the women sit around a table playing a card game. As each player has their turn they repeat dialogue, in a sort of battle to be heard.
Muvva says; “It all depends on what cards your dealt in life”.
This statement ran deep into me because I think all to often we find it easier to dismiss oppressive circumstances that hold a big influence on the decisions we make. Further to this, we learn in the card scene about women that are incarcerated for petty crimes such as not paying the TV license or a child playing truant.
The monologues are another feature that documented each woman’s personal experience. This was delivered to the audience anywhere on the stage including inside of a recording booth. We hear how Muvva’s relationship with her children, particularly her son, was affected when she went inside. Therefore asking the unsaid question of whether a mother who transports drugs in order to have money for her children - a good mother?
The video footage of the women’s audition process towards the end – combined acting (auditioning) with a real life reality... their reality and contributed to the multimedia, documentary effect – symbolizing a more lateral way of thinking about prison in general.
However, I did feel it went on a slight tangent with the inclusion of footoage of the women going on tour to different cities; as well as the actual selling of branded Inside B*tch merchandise to the audience. And although it arguably aided to the comedic, light hearted approach to life in prison for women and the consequences there after – its inclusion distanced me from the serious and true reality of a patriarchal system that still is harsher to women in sentencing!
Overall... this is my rating.
Inside B*tch runs at the Royal Court Theatre until 23rd March. It is a devised piece by Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar and Jade Small of Clean Break.
Conceived by Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson.
Kwaku Mills Actor and Arinze Kene - Writer
Set in the nineties in inner city London, Good Dog follows a Good Boy who is trying his best to uphold righteous values as advised by his pastor and estranged father.
We follow this boy to man account of trying to just be good for a bicycle promised by his mother. Visible seemingly only to Desmond and his gang who have him in head locks daily and regularly beating him up at school, our Young Man looks through his window and later down from his balcony at his community - invisible to the world. We meet all of the neighbors and their struggles with morality through our Good Boy - hiding behind the walls of his estate but observing everything.
Like with all good one man/ woman performances – after the first 10 minutes I forgot that I was only meeting these characters vicariously through the main and only character in the play.
I saw the Old man Boateng, a Ghanaian drinker trying to fight his addiction and make an important call at the phone box across the road.
I laughed at the What-What Girls that visit Gahndi’s corner shop and steal items unapologetically.
And I tensed up and felt uneasy at the Smoking Boys who continuously smoke outside Trevor Seniors backyard as he teaches his son Trevor Junior to play cricket, despite the polluted air.
Returning back from the interval kwaku mills does a brilliant job of transforming from this awkward adolescent, fragile boy to… well a seasoned experienced man in both his body and voice.
I really enjoyed the transition, and felt that the otherwise prejudged character – had won over the audience by his sensitivity in the first half. I also enjoyed the distinct transition because we often marginalize this idea of the hooded man. It is a surface character, one that lacks depth rather than a real human. But the display, in the first half of a Young Man that is bullyed, invisibile, fragile and loyal to his community - dimantles this image. The hood not only is a symbol of a mask and a shield, but us as an audience are educated to why the hood is worn.
So you know by now how relevant titles are to me. And Good Dog is no different - offering a great illustration of how we all are on some sort of leash.... Dog leash. Held by the system, the 'powers that be' maybe, and being a 'Good Dog'. The majority of us do good, be good, live safe - because of religion, parents or some other type of doctrine.
Aside - Now don’t get me wrong – I am all about doing right, but Good Dog most definitely got me to question why. Why do the majority of us, just play good?
Is it for some reward? Probably
When actually it should just be for our personal integrity!
But Good Dog is not just metaphorically relating to our Young Man (who is actually unnamed) holding good values and being led - this is characterised, vicariously again, between our Young Man and an actual good dog.
We meet two dogs Big Dog and Little dog. Big Dog constantly torments Little Dog through the neighboring fence that separates them.
One-day, the usual occurrence of Big Dog barking at Little Dog, whilst their owners are out at work occurs. But this time Big Dog breaks through that fence! Running for his life - Little Dog manages to escape death but is traumatised by the experience making him not so passive anymore. He becomes a terror to his owner and eventually, years later, kills Big Dog.
These events are described in the same way as Old Man Boateng, the What What Girls, Gahndi and the other characters – but like all of the charaters life and journey, they are a parallel to our Young Man’s actual experience, which shapes who he is.
Good Dog will be on tour until the end of March - click the link for dates!
After calling, waiting, calling, waiting, calling, waiting – I finally got a ticket for The Convert at the Young Vic. And in actual fact I was on the bus on my way to the theatre to just see my luck in person when I managed to successfully book a ticket.
The Universe J
I’m not sure what my expectations of The Convert would be, but I knew I needed to see this. Mainly because of my obsession with titles - with a title like that it was bound to explore Christianity. But also because this of the cast which would also potentially explore Christianity from a Black perspective. With Danai Gurira as the writer, Letitia Wright as the lead - both of whom were in Black Panther – [click the link to see my review] – this was right up my street!
It reached my expectation! And actually explored thoroughly how the missionary achieved their mission to convert people on the continent of Africa, in this case Zimbabwe. It reminded me of the book I reviewed Of Water and Spirit [see my - When the Books & Hair decide to Loc review], because it was after reading this book that I realised that mental slavery didn’t just start and end with people of the diaspora – but also existed (and exists) in Africa.
Letitia Wright plays Jekesaia, a Zimbabwean woman fleeing marriage. Her aunt Mai Tamba (played by Pamela Nomvete) introduces her to a catholic priest named Chilford (played by Paapa Essiedu) who is also Zimbabwean but has abandoned his family, belief and arguably his race for the church. Chilford then introduces Jekesais to (a white) Jesus and a new name… Esther.
Note – Us Black Caribbean’s and Americans have European sirnames mainly British and French like Smith, Williams, Baptise because of enslavement and colonisation But it never dawned on me that a lot of African people have European first names like Elizabeth, Beverley, Sarah largely because of Christianity. My favourite character was Prudence played by Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo - although all of the cast were absolutely brilliant!
#shoutout to my good friend Ivanno Jeremiah who plays Prudence’s husband.
I liked Prudence the best because she represents that mixed cultural experience that I talk about often [see my Nine Night review].
Her ability to use the Queens English whilst still staying true to her traditions, belief and culture is actually my life goals! The audience too agreed, and were very vocal in their applause, clicks and laughter - abandoning the usual silenced etiquette of the theatre. Many of Prudence’s statements and phrases were met with accolade more than once.
That blanket of comfort by seeing an audience full of young, Black Artists warmed my young, Black Artist heart. It was a lovely, engaging, supportive atmosphere; which was needed to support the hard facing issues of Black people wanting to be white and giving up not just their religion but abandoning (or being abandoned by) their families.
I was interested to see how the Actress Letitia Wright handled the concept of Christianity being a means to manipulate Africans, knowing that she is a devout Christian herself. Particular because her character Jekesaia…
Spoiler Spoiler alert**
Watches her cousin’s murder, and faces death herself.
Spoiler Spoiler ends**
My mind wondered where the line is drawn when choosing acting parts that challenge your personal belief. As an ex born again Christian myself, I was always concerned that the career I had chosen would challenge my relationship with God.
Interestingly enough, despite the revelation of the Europeans using Christianity to indoctrinate and conquer the Zimbabweans - Jekesaia does not lose faith. In fact it ends with a song of worship by Jekesaia in her mother tongue - giving all the praise to Christ.
Maybe with the increased knowledge of Christianity actually starting in Africa, and the survival of African spirituality (voodoo) existing namely in the Pentecostal churches - this adoption and merge of both Africa and Christ is on point and true. However, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that Jekesaia’s faith was not challenged, and felt this play was, ultimately, trying to Convert me.
The Convert is playing at the Young Vic until January 26th
So as I write this - I am conscious of how many reviews I've done of late from the Royal Court Theatre, and am slightly feeling like their bitch. Ironically, the diverse female cast of Hole did a fabulous job of shouting, unapologetically – that woman/ females/ Womxn are exhausted by a system that have capitalised on having us as their bitch. These ladies are climbing out of a hole, that doesn’t just represent our private parts – but a space (clearly shaped out on stage) that has been used to silent our oppression. Let us take back control!!
One symbolic feature of the Hole was the first scene – whereby each woman, one by one, attempted to give her account of being sexually assaulted, harassed, and raped. In the middle of their sentence (quite literally) the microphone would turn off. In addition, when each woman would stand in a particular place – the spotlight would move! I found this concept interesting, as it had a God-like patricarchal feel about it and I felt indirectly asks the question –
Who is in power?
Who controls what?
How much can we (actually) say?
And that is the very loose premise of Hole. Like it or loathe it for being very much feminist and direct in speaking out against the over saturated male perspective – it is very much a production that breaks the mold and convention around how theatre should be. I loved this about it! Throughout, the cast addressed the audience directly smashing down the bull shit notion of a fourth wall but looking us in our eyes and I loved this! Now… as some of you may or may not know, I identify as a Womanist not a feminist. And so, there were definite times in watching Hole – where my eyes rolled at a perspective that shares my gender but not my race. I literally took all of the questions that were being shouted at to the males of the audience, and asked them to White people! You should play it too J So every time you read or watch something screaming Female Rights… swap it to Black rights and it works just as well. And not to intentionally make myself a double victim of White patriarchy… but… Well… I’m a double victim of White patriarchy. Now Hole had a diverse cast – there were more than just White women on stage, which was beautiful to see. And also diverse in height, shape and energy so for the first time in Sharla Reviews history casting gets rated - full stars…
But how diverse is the writer, because to be frank that’s who we’re really listening to right?
Casting loses a star just because I'm skeptical on how great the cast selection was. What I mean by this, Is that we call something 'diverse' because it ticks all the relevant boxes. But I actually thnk we are further behind in diversity than the British media wants to admit. We still do not accept a diverse way of thinking. And often the Black and Brown people I meet have been conditioned, programmed, brain-washed into accepting and believing the western status quo.
Another hard one to rate - as all the woman were playing women and so there was no acting involved. Their different energies were impressive - as wiith a production like this, you can all express the same conventional way of being female. However, because of the cast - I suspect this was not really an issue. I especially was positively distracted by Ronke Adekoluejo's hair and beauty, as well as her powerful acting. Seldom do I go to the Theatre and see a Black woman without a wig... and that includes an afro. So I was mesmerised at this actresses long auburn locs - swinging infront of me.
The story is not linear, which is great! However, I lost the purpose at times but thoroughly enjoyed going on the quite ecstatic journey.
Hole is on at the Royal Court until Saturday 12th January
Comment below if you’ve seen Hole with your thoughts and feelings.
The Dark is a story that documents Nick’s personal journey from Uganda to the UK with his mother under the régime of Idi Amin in the seventies. Although Idi Amin is very much a backdrop of this play, we see the effects of living in a war-torn country whereby children are soldiers and civilians are fleeing for freedom.
I loved the set!
On stage right we had projected slides on the wall that illustrated Ugandan history – including the oppressive ruling. Underneath, the table the projector was on acted as a type of smuggling tunnel. At intervals Nick’s mother used this space and the radio microphone to encourage revolution and change.
Suddenly The Dark was not just a play documenting Nick’s perspective of events; but also a play that under a male oppressive regime, shined a light on a heroine – Nick’s mother, a mother who sacrifices her country and her marriage to save her son.
Only two actors play the many characters that occupy the bus that is situated stage left. Symbolic, maybe, of a two handed story between a mother and son.
The top deck held the passenger’s luggage (and the actors props for each character) and the bottom deck occupied the many characters.
Michael Bologun and Akiya Henry impersonate Nick’s mother, a young male soldier, a pregnant market seller and Nick himself amongst others. They do an excellent job of different physicality and accents for each – and I was never lost at who they were as they explained their different reasons of boarding the bus. Another aid was placing each character in a particular seat on the bus – and reminded me of the assigned seats in a classroom. That then triggered thoughts and feelings of order and dictatorship.
I particularly liked Akiya’s impersonation of a young boy soldier who initially held the bus at gunpoint – but then acted as a guard of the bus as he was deluded in thinking that Nick’s mother was his own.
I also enjoyed watching Michael impersonate Nick. As Nick’s character worked mostly as a narrator in the play, I was impressed at the detail Michael had taken in observing Nick’s personal attributes. However, I do feel that this was a privileged experience having previously met Nick and watched his poetry; I had a unique insight of these mannerisms.
I think one criticism I do have - is that I had to work hard to understand some of the nuances The Dark presented, as I am ignorant of the history of Uganda. This excluded and detached me slightly, as I was a beat behind where I wanted to be in the story - not being fully informed. If this were about Jamaica I would be outraged and screaming at any form of ignorance with the internet being… well world wide, so it is a lesson to me, I think to do some form of research!
With the recent Brexit debate and our biases towards immigration – I do feel that this play humanises that which Britain tries to alienate, and is well worth a watch!
The Dark – written by Nick Makoha and directed by Roy Alexander Weise (See my Nine Night review that Roy also directed) on at the Oval House Theatre until Saturday 1st December