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FringeReview Scotland 2023

Blaccine First Dose


Genre: Audio Play

Venue: Pitlochry Sound Stage


Low Down

Written by Tonderai Munyevu, Maheni Arthur and Isaac Tomiczek and awash with invigorating music, each monologue contains a strong voice, unafraid to show its vulnerability, although at just over 20 minutes apiece they offer a too-brief synthesis of their subject matter. With three writers taking the helm we have three performances of monologues which investigate the effect of COVID, and the vaccine roll out amongst the black community. There are introductory discussions between the writers which contextualise each monologue. Co-directed by Munyevu and Debbie Hannan they also incorporate the music of Rina Mushonga. Starting with Brixton Royalty by Isaac Tomiczek, and performed by Kiren Kebaili-Dwyerit, is based around not one but two royal visits to Brixton – that of William and Kate and then Harry and Meghan. Pondering the effect that each had upon the community exposes not just the prejudice faced but explores the pride at a non-white entry into that most treasured of familial institutions, as our guide returns to a Brixton, once his working class home of pride but now a middle class stranger to him. Our second podcast, The Process by Maheni Arthur performed by Michelle Tiwo, takes the vaccine and instead of comparing it to the things we consume but know not what is in them offers a feminist perspective of what a smear test and the HPV vaccine may have felt like in comparison. Finally, Trigger Warning by Tonderai Munyevu, performed by Stefan Adegbola, takes as its focus the challenges of the vaccine to the black community and how they have been both castigated and unfairly figure in the number of COVID deaths. It follows our narrator after the death of his vaccine sceptic mother – who did not die of COVID – as he navigates this own response to vaccination and the pandemic.


Brixton Royalty began my odyssey, and it was quite a revelation to me. I found the beginning ponderous and was beginning to feel the narrative would spin away from me but then came the interjections of other voices, obviously played by my guide but it enriched the narrative and gave me the same argument but new perspective. What did make me sit up was the pride around Meghan Markle. I had little considered this and to my chagrin and embarrassment, whilst I found much of the media coverage of her quite disgraceful, had never really thought about the cultural significance she held. As our guide took me through the return to his home, the mixture of the noises of the place and the voices that inhabit it were well crafted into the fabric of facing a pandemic. And so, I sat back, metaphorically, and learned. But even for me, the white man in Scotland, this was a familiar tale of a place once the scourge of the gentry, the home of genuine communities being over developed into elite places that smacked less of comfort and more of privilege. I came to love it, appreciating how it had been crafted well, beautifully written and performed with great feeling – this was a great beginning.

The Process by Maheni Arthur took this journey off on a direction I little expected and again the production values shone. This was something where the foley artists managed to bring the text to the fore and allow our guide to really take us with her. The idea behind the connections between the black community and the various medically invasive procedures we now take as a normal part of growing up – the smear test and the HPV vaccine – was a tremendously creative vehicle to allow the frustration to be platformed with passion. The tone is not of a fury but of a confusion which doesn’t build but takes reasonable steps to show just how complex this has been as an issue for our communities – doubly so for a marginalised one. There is an overwhelming feeling that this unique perspective has been hidden away from being heard – such is the thrust of the narrative – and it works well, though this time, I wanted to delve deeper, to know more and feel a counter point to the narrative being offered.

The third, Trigger Warning by Tonderai Munyevu, manages to take us through the unavoidable reality that COVID affected the black community disproportionally whilst the death of his COVID vaccine sceptic mother has caused him to pause. That pause is temporary as he does his research and decides to help his own community out by being vaccinated. It is a wide ranging topic in a short blast which, like the others has much to commend it but little time in which to develop it, but here I felt it blend and suggest in ways that made me want to have more of it.

It was therefore an uneven listen. Which is as it should be. There are three voices here, who should not be asked to represent a whole community but act as a gateway to their community. Rather than being judged as spokespeople, they ask a question, pose a suggested solution and ask us to respond. And my response is to ask for more. There is a richness in subject matter which in three developed 20 minute podcasts can ask for references to be made, nods to the subject matters to be acknowledged but there cannot be much by way of deep and meaningful dialogue – or even monologue. We are listening to one person’s perspective. We need there to be more investment in engaging a wider range of rich voice to tell their tale – it’s not like we lack white people’s views – just turn on the TV…


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