Frank Ocean fills the air, and audience members tap their feet and nod their heads in time. I jokingly ask my mum if she recognises the song as I recall how I wailed and begged about 10 years ago for her to download his album onto her iPod. Indulging in Frank Ocean’s music is like a Black right of passage. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t adore his range, and if you don’t – you’re lying.
Guido Garcia Lueches is an actor from Uruguay who lives and works in the UK, which means that xenophobia and racism shape his day-to-day life. When he’s not attending auditions where he is asked to embody Latinx stereotypes, he regularly endures microaggressions from British people. This constant stereotyping is so unrelenting that he’s made a satirical, interactive show about the importance of fitting in as a migrant.
She shoots, she scores with this one. Waiting for her friends to arrive so they can watch Coventry FC live, we join teenager Lizzie as she takes us on a nostalgic stroll down memory lane to the mid-90s. The show is packed with classic tracks and brand references from the era you may have tried to erase from your memory whilst reminiscing about all the bad outfit choices we made as teens. It’s also full of committed dance moves, chants and audience participation.
Burnt Lemon have taken their acclaimed 2019 Edinburgh Fringe hit Tokyo Rose on the road with a retooled cast, score and book and a good deal of anticipation. The bones of this new version of the show remain the same, telling the story of Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American radio journalist wrongly convicted of treason in 1945. As in the original, themes include xenophobia, cultural identity, and scapegoating, all with a six-strong female cast. The show opens with the high-energy and undeniably catchy “Hello America” – attention well and truly grabbed. Unfortunately, the number also represents the pinnacle of what is otherwise a flat, one-note production. The book (by Baldwin and Yoon) is generally good, retaining some of the smart, self-referential moxie that made the show charming in 2019, but is let down by the weakness of the score.
Renewing a passport is usually a straightforward – if annoying – bit of life paperwork so Benedict is surprised when a letter arrives from the Home Office indicating otherwise. However, this admin obstacle is the start of her explorations a historic maze of familial border crossings, cultural differences, and complex identities. Of course, it’s still far bigger than than that because a family does not exist in a vacuum. In this instance, colonial and racial violence have shaped entire nations and Benedict’s family is a part of that, and she is here to ensure we hear her story, and those of many others who are marginalised and oppressed by imperialism.
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.
For newly formed theatre company Afkar, their debut play is a strong and creative response to Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism in modern-day Britain, but not something extraordinarily fresh or unique. Drawing from duplicate Orientalist accounts by Western men of Kuchuk Hanem – a famous dancer in Egypt in the mid-nineteenth century and subsequent symbol of the male Orientalist gaze – the play draws interesting parallels between Victorian depictions of Middle Eastern women and the lived experience of these women today.
Ella works three jobs whilst trying to forge a career as an actor in London, but misses the slower pace of her hometown of Hebden Bridge. Haseeb is a Muslim factory worker and writer from Cricklewood who is tired of the whiteness in the poetry scene. Though the two meet in a drama workshop that Ella’s, time passes and their love grows. Yet, it’s not enough to compensate for their differences in privilege. This ever-growing elephant in the room becomes harder and harder for the couple to ignore.
An M&S-shopping grandmother. A year seven girl. A young, gay black man. An armed services vet. These are some of the Extinction Rebellion activists that playwright Stephanie Martin celebrates through this articulate and impassioned collection of monologues that advocate for people to commit to any level of action against climate change. However, the problematic aspects of the movement are largely glossed over in order to frame its collective impact as wholly positive.
Joy is 40 years old, a successful businesswoman, and happily childfree. She is also up for a significant promotion, puts in long hours in a stressful job, and faces daily microaggressions from a systemically racist and misogynistic society. When she witnesses a woman jump from the roof of the 40-storey office block where she works, the experience combines with the societal pressure and violence Black women experience – represented by a chorus of Black women – threatening to completely overwhelm her.