Edinburgh Fringe 2018
The show tells the stories of four black women who have been turned away from a nightclub for ‘being too black’ (based on the Dstrkt night spot incident of 2015).
It covers the experience of ‘Misogynoir’ (misogyny directed toward black women, where both racism and sexism play a role in oppression) and the fight for survival.
This is a genre-blending piece: part spoken word, part dance, part drama -with storytelling throughout. With no sound and no amplification, all the sound and movement are produced by the 4- strong female cast. There is no set, and the empty stage means that we focus on the performers.
From the start the performances from the four women are committed, multi-disciplined and strong. The choreography and overall direction of the piece is tight and precise, as is the writing. The show is punctuated throughout by snatches of song – often anthemic, in homage to women artists who’ve sung, fought for change and survived: Billie Holliday, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin.
The show challenges the audience in terms of who we are as we watch. When the show begins with themes of body image or work place discrimination we may be on familiar ground. When we move on to scenes featuring white men and racism, followed by black men and sexism, then we are perhaps on more challenging and complex ground. When the women act as predatory men on the dating scene we are amused, but recognise the reality of the situation. The content is potentially risky, but the carefully crafted multi-genre form in which it is presented allows it to work across audiences, all of whom will learn something from it and come away affected at some level. And in the context of the current ‘Me Too’ movement, which is referenced in the play, the show is current and relevant.
The stories of Black women’s lives are told collectively by several women acting as one, reflecting their solidarity and shared experience. There is no suggestion of victim-hood – only resistance and survival. When the actors deliver spoken word in chorus, they are acting as commentators but also as individuals with lived experience. And when questions and lines are reprised, with intentional repetition of memorable words and phrases, like ‘where are you from?’ the audience understands how racism and sexism are woven into the fabric of everyday language and life, and cannot be switched off. The intensity of the content is balanced throughout by the humour, irony and sheer exuberance of the production.
This is a piece where impeccable direction, energetic and sustained performance and rhythmic writing come together in riveting and inspiring work..
The show gained a well-deserved standing ovation at the end. A must see.