Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Based on a true story, Yvette is a one woman show with original music about a stolen childhood and growing up with a secret.
Yvette was first developed at East 15’s Debut Festival, a pioneering and unique event dedicated to the staging of new plays written and directed as well as performed by graduating students on the acclaimed ‘CT course’ (BA in Acting and Contemporary Theatre) developed and led by Uri Roodner and the writing and direction of this play is beautifully crafted. It begins with an endearing opening that instantly draws you into the character of the story; Evie, a thirteen-year-old who lives in Neasden with her Mum. She is funny, bubbly, young and full of spirit. She wants to tell us all about her crush on Lewis, trying to be a woman, friends, virginity, garage remixes, hello kitty underwear… Urielle Klein-Mekongo is instantly likeable as an actress, her sassy performance and swinging moves are on point and she has you laughing and putty in her hands in not time.
Which is when the gristle of the story lands in your laps. There is an ‘Uncle’ lurking in the corner of Evie’s story. And the effects of her experiences with him leave imprints on her mental health and day-to-day behaviour that Evie has to then spend her formative years unravelling and making sense of as she tries to find her path into the world of womanhood. Mixed up in all of this is the colour of her skin and size of her body. How does a young scarred woman find ways to love herself when the world around her is telling her daily that nothing is right about her?
This is a vital piece of work highlighting mental health issues in the BAME community and an area of conversation that doesn’t receive enough focus. Watching this production it becomes strikingly obvious how being judged every day on what you look like and discovering that from the moment of your birth the cards you’ve been dealt in life have been stacked against you, that mental health issues are going to be hard pushed to avoid. And if you then chuck into the mix the trials and tribulations of life as a woman, regardless of colour and creed, you’ll soon find yourself with all the ingredients necessary for a heady mix of possible breakdown scenarios and invisible disabilities. The writing also alludes to male issues in the BAME community too, young men growing up with pre-ordained peer pressures, and the futures this means they often find themselves steered towards growing into.
Staged simply but effectively the theatrical elements woven into this piece punctuate the script with lingering images. The soundtrack is funky and Urielle’s singing and dance moves are utterly fabulous. All these elements transport you into teenage parties, school classrooms, sacred adolescent bedrooms and humiliating bathroom beauty attempts.
Urielle is a strong woman and Evie, the lady this true story is based on, is also strong. This means that the story doesn’t just hit you in the heart but also pulls fire up into your belly. The issues in this play are not okay, are far too familiar and way too ignored. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of writing, with precise direction and just the right mixture of laughter, tears, and the desire to act that are what make for great theatre. Winner of the Young Harts Writing Fest Audience Favourite, Kings Head Theatre Stella Wilkie Award and The East15 Pulse Award in 2017, Urielle Klein-Mekongo is certainly a writer and actress to look out for.