Wednesday, 31 January 2018

For a Black Girl - VAULT Festival

It’s difficult to fathom how there are still so many individuals who believe that racism and sexism don’t exist in the UK. That is until you’re presented with an abundance of characters that bear an uncanny resemblance to individuals you encounter on a frequent basis.

In her hour-long play, For A Black Girl, Nicole Acquah doesn’t just address issues of racism and sexism, from ‘casual’ misogyny to horrific hate crime, but continually scorns those who see this everyday discrimination but refuse to acknowledge its existence.

The play is a medley of sketches, monologues, poetry, visual media and interview recordings, a scrapbook of modern-day experiences doused in racism and sexism. Despite its fractured structure, the piece flows with ease. Acquah places comedy and tragedy side by side in a way that cuts straight to the point; this may be a witty and satirical performance, but when it comes down to it, it’s not a laughing matter.

That being said, the comic scenes are a joy to watch, with the two leads (Nicole Acquah and PJ Stanley) shifting competently between their multitude of contrasting characters. Acquah’s script is effortlessly funny, and even in moments of pure melodrama, the humour isn’t too try-hard.

The two leads are joined in the space by four women who make up the movement ensemble, adding an impactful dimension to the performance that often reveals the stark difference between what the female is permitted to say versus what she really feels. Their presence in the space further symbolises the silencing of the female voice; although female bodies outnumber male five to one, these male personas continue to disregard the voice of their female counterparts.

As with the leads, the movement ensemble take on various forms and roles throughout the piece, but their importance really comes to light during the most harrowing moments, making these scenes all the more uncomfortable to watch.

Although each sketch tackles the same resounding issue, For a Black Girl is surprisingly refreshing from one scene to the next. But this ultimately leads to the sad truth: while the form of each section is engaging and unpredictable, the conversations and scenarios presented are nauseatingly familiar.

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