BWW Review: CHIAROSCURO, Bush Theatre
In an explosive blend of live music, spoken word and theatre, Jackie Kay's 1986 provocation is breathed a new life under Lynette Linton's hand. It is the director's first show since taking the AD job at the Bush Theatre, and is one that highly entertains, whilst also shines a light on queer women of colour across generations.
These four women couldn't be more different, yet they are all searching for the answers to the same question. The location of such truth is a mystery. Who will tell them who they really are? At a dinner party things get heated when discussions of same-sex relationships and racial politics come to the forefront.
Each of the women possesses an emblematic, familiar object. Opal clutches on to a broken mirror, Aisha squeezes an embroidered cushion, Beth is reluctant to look into a photo album, and Yomi holds a tiny black doll. Through these items they hold on to a sense of history and belonging. Even though they might not know what it completely means, it's there.
Chiaroscuro means light and shade - the darkness mixed with the luminosity. That's what this piece captures well; the pain felt, combined with the pride experienced. Despite the text being over 30 years old, Kay's poetry effortlessly rolls off the tongues of these women - the message lands just as hard in this decade.
Kay both celebrates and investigates queerness, drawing on her own personal experience. In this energetic production, we're never allowed to linger in moments too long - the action quickly goes elsewhere. Because of this, there are moments when the storytelling can seem at times a little fragmented, making it tricky to follow the character's individual journey.
However, Linton's production, alongside actor-musician Shiloh Coke's thrilling music, radiates. It's packed full of a triumphant force, which has so much soul and makes an excellent case for how wonderful humanity can be.
Photo: Johan Persson