Edinburgh Fringe 2015
With an impressive number of awards behind her, Shaina Lynn invites us to join her as she sidles through the dreams of Beauty, a young black girl who experiences her first Mardi Gras. A play that investigates how people and places first appear, personifying immediate judgements vs. the darker, or lighter truths underneath.
Venue 13 is a little off the beaten track of the cows and domes, but a venue with an extremely welcome change of pace. The auditorium larger than it appears from outside, the minimalist design of Tanya Orellana setting us up nicely to be transported to another world. It’s safe to say Lynn knows what she’s doing, her piercing gaze picking out every single audience member as she welcomes us into her story. Dressed in a waterfall of patterned blue material, performer and set design melt together irresistibly, with beautiful projections aiding her engaging narrative.
We follow the story of Beauty, a young girl who’s skin is considered “too dark” to be beautiful. The time or year seems irrelevant, conveying moments of the past and present. Lynn portrays an array of characters as well as Beauty, who conclude the same verdict. New Orleans grows from colourful beads and brass bands into a world of shadow, controlled by light and projections.
The narrative jumps slightly, forward through time to a New Orleans that finds itself underwater, reflecting on the devastating effects that Hurricane Katrina had on the country. The technical aspects of the show were matched well to Lynn’s on stage movements, highlighting and never out of place. The animation work through projecting onto the strips of material aligning the back of the stage was nothing short of stunning, aiding to Lynn’s enchanting stage presence.
Lynn’s warm and comforting demeanour allows you to relax and let her work her magic across the stage. Combining movement, dance, spoken word and rap, the script is a mash up of poetry and prose, with every word delivered home by a very capable actor. The structure of the plot is pieced together surprising and jarringly at times, the shifts in time and place taking a few sentences to recollect the audience. The multitude of characters Lynn attempts are sometimes unclear, especially through moments of dialogue between two similarly aged characters. This was always forgiven, however, as the young actress managed a poise and elegance beyond her years juxtaposed with a cultural vitality that often surprised.
Overall, the performance was a charming take on some meaty themes. You sense a strong impression of collaboration between the production team, and a well-deserved pride that comes from achieving an ambitious show. For a welcome change of pace from the manic mile, head down to Venue 13 and rise and shine with Beauty in the Bayou.