FringeReview Scotland 2019
This is the mixed story of two women. Ambrosia a woman of substance and privilege, caught up in riots and of Assata Shakur who was there and around the time of the Black Panthers. Through the use of evocative songs and a solo performance that takes you through and combines thematically the 40 odd years between both experiences. Woke connects you with the trap into which Ambrosia fell and the struggle out of which Shakur would have hoped she and we grew but unfortunately never really have. It is a powerful and heady mix that manages to bring the times to the stage with a message that gets people on their feet.
The message of Woke, that prejudice has been with is, is still with us and should be challenged is one that deserves every creative way and means of getting it out into the public domain and here it is given a stage and an arena in which it holds its own. It has been well directed though so.me of the changes from past to present need to be better signposted. The script has a strength that comes from the responsibility of telling a story that is so important.
Apphia Campbell’s performance is equal to the task in most respects. She can sing, my God can she sing. Opening the show with a beautiful piece of music that we are then treated to regularly as the song of the struggle is as equal to the task as the theatrical presentation here is attempting to be.
The performance was enhanced by a minimalist set of three props that were used to good effect though at times they seemed more of a creative decoration than a functional piece of set furniture. The evocation of the car journey was one point at which I felt we got the fully creative force of the performance, the mimicry and the theatrical arts working as one.
Similarly, Ambrosia’s naivety in believing that justice, like love, was all around here was performed well. It was the incredulity and the criminalising of democracy that caught you at the back of the throat. In a country deigned to be built on freedom, to see it curtailed in such a way was heart breaking. Campbell captured that finely and with great skill.
The structure of the piece heads towards a crescendo at the end which corals the audience to their feet which is worthy of the story and the message. We should all take note, take heed and action.
The memory I have is of the songstress turning message giver. The theatrical message is one of being creative but not hitting the theatrical heights that make me remember the performance as innovative and groundbreaking, but perhaps that is the point. Get the point across, which it did, was incredibly effective; having heard the beauty and majesty of that voice, I was perhaps hoping for a better vehicle to take me to the barricades.