Camden Fringe 2011
he black? Is he Indian? Is Sanjay from Eastenders really his dad? Who is the snake haired man? Should he have another go at being a Muslim? And ultimately can he walk like a black man to impress the black half- brothers and sisters he’s meeting for the first time? Overall this one-man show is a brilliant expression of contemporary racial identity using comic flair and heartfelt, real life experience. Respect.
The essence of racial prejudice is evident even as you walk into the dimly lit fringe space of the Etcetera venue and notice, with some discomfort, it has to be said, reminders of the infamous ‘golliwog’ image placed on a small table. Rafiq enters the space, as a ‘hoody’ and with the media reports of the riots still fresh, this gives the piece an immediacy of purpose. The now familiar symbol of unrest gives the actor a special connection to the audience that comes when art unexpectedly imitates life.
Rafiq begins his examination of racial identity by talking about his nemesis, Nathan who pretends to be ‘black’. What follows is an eloquent explanation of the confusions and problems of growing up in multi-cultural Britain. Rafiq sees an inherent problem in having a black father and an Indian mother. The emotions run deep but there are some comic moments. Rafiq likens his mismatched parents to mixing guacamole with tiramisu. ‘It just doesn’t go’. This confusion then leads Rafiq to consider his origins and religion and to question who and what he is.
As the performance unfolds the writing is both comic and hard hitting – a black comedy (pardon the pun). Memorable references include how he was treated at school, the attitude of his peers who marked him out for his mixed race and the sadness of a mixed up kid who worried that the market seller from Eastenders might be his real father. The performance raised poignant issues of how coming from a mixed race family can affect a child.
The performance displayed the comic flair which allowed the audience to identify with him. On the surface the chocolate bar comparisons were amusing but as Rafiq talks about the Bounty, being black on the outside and white on the inside the comic becomes poignant.
The undoubted highlight of the performance was the rap which Rafiq intends to use to introduce himself to his siblings, Rafiq’s Jay Z type confidence made this entertaining as well as an expression of the real anxiety he felt about meeting his family. This was a thought provoking insight into the personal issues affecting many mixed race and black members of the community who are too often seen by the media as criminals, rather than victims of a flawed society.