Unseen Unheard, a show seeking to improve the representation of Black women with breast cancer, is a co-production between Black Women Rising and Peckham Theatre. The production emerged from the real stories of black women’s struggles after a cancer diagnosis and the myriad problems that the system affords them, based on their race. From the belief that black women don’t feel pain – “they see us as superhuman and subhuman at the same time” – to the absence of prosthetics of an appropriate skin tone, point to health inequities that the statistics sadly bear out. Black women are 28% more likely to die from a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis than white women with the same diagnosis.
This is an innovative play that presents the true history of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cancer cells were used to create the first immortalised human cell line. It opens with a rhythmic, spoken-word monologue delivered by Henrietta (Aminita Francis). We soon learn that her DNA, nicknamed by herself as “Did Not Ask”, was non-consensually taken from her body in 1951. It has since served as the key basis for medical research, including the development of HIV vaccines, investigation of cancer cells and more recently, the COVID vaccine.
Nouveau Riche, creators of the hit show Queens of Sheba that confronts systemically ingrained misogynoir, now focus on the experience of being a Black woman actor. Using music, beatboxing and spoken word to expose the microaggressions and racism that shape their working lives, the show is a rallying cry for change within theatre and film.
This is a triumphant return of Queens of Sheba after a successful run at Soho Theatre in 2021 and Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. Expertly directed, these ladies burst onto the stage with such energy and so many vibes it it’s infectious and everyone in the audience feels it.
As part of Clean Break’s 40th anniversary celebrations, this outdoor, in-person production showcases some of the work the company created over the past year. The collection of short monologues created by Clean Break members and associate artists all share stories of loss, isolation and loneliness, which are further contextualised by lived experiences of incarceration. The character-driven pieces are remarkable examples of human resilience in the face of systemic oppression and a criminal justice system that is punitive and cruel.
Cleo has finally had enough of Kylie Jenner’s celebrity and with nowhere else to safely vent her frustrations, she takes to her anonymous Twitter account. After her first couple of tweets critiquing Kylie’s appropriation of Black culture, Cleo’s best friend Kara busts in when her concerned Whatsapps are ignored. Their ensuing discussion – that often descends into argument – also covers queerness, friendship, teenage offenses and indiscretions, and the long history of violence Black people have suffered at the hands of whites.
Women’s anger is often expected to be suppressed or contained rather than be unleashed on the world. Otherwise, we risk being labelled ‘crazy’ or ‘a bitch’, no matter what injustice we experience. But Femi can’t hold it in anymore. The night before the group of white men who killed her killed her brother Seun on Margate’s beach face charges of manslaughter, his ghost visits her to share the truth of his death. Initially baffled by her dead brother’s appearance, she is transformed into an embodied fury that cannot and will not stop until she gets revenge.
She Is A Place Called Homeexplores how two sisters simultaneously support and frustrate each other as they prepare for their Dad’s controversial second marriage, which is not good news for his current wife, their mother.
Patricia has spent the past year constructing the perfect speech to deliver to the man who used to hit her. Patricia now has to decide if she is going to go have dinner with him, what she is going to say, how she is going to say this, as well as what she is going to wear.
In 1831, Mary Prince’s autobiography was the first book published in the UK about a Black woman. Her straightforward, emotive prose shares her lived experience of being an enslaved woman in the West Indies and England in great detail, including numerous accounts of abuse. This two-woman show embraces it all, packing this story of family separation, numerous masters, and a quest for freedom into an hour. Dance, music and ritual are embedded into the dramaturgy, too – this is a dense show, but one telling an important story that’s exquisitely performed.