Tag Archives: Cherrelle Skeete

My White Best Friend

My White Best Friend
★★★★★

The Bunker

My White Best Friend

My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid)

The Bunker

Reviewed – 20th March 2019

★★★★★

 

“Using the word show seems a bit weird. It wasn’t really a show. It was an event, a sharing.”

 

Yesterday evening at The Bunker felt unlike any evening I’ve ever spent in a theatre, and as such, I felt it was right to write about it in a totally different way. I’ve introduced an I for starters, and so I’m going to introduce myself too. I’m a cis, pansexual, middle class white woman, aged 48. It feels essential to let you know this, as the series of evenings which Rachel De-Lahay and Millie Bhatia have curated put identity centre stage – racial identity, class identity, sexual identity and gender identity – and one of the things that last night made very clear, is that we can only view things through our own identity prism. So the old myth of the invisible critic just won’t wash.

The Bunker felt like a club last night. Buzzy. There was an excellent DJ, we were all standing, and we were offered a drink (rum and Ting, delicious) when we walked into the space. It was a young crowd and it looked and felt and sounded like London; like the London that is outside, that we journeyed through to get there. Which felt great. And made me realise how rare that is. There were knots of friends chatting, predominantly people of colour, and a sense of relaxed ownership, a comfortable knowledge – this night is for us, and about us – which I could only share from the edges. And that feeling taught me something, even before the show began. Even using the word show seems a bit weird. It wasn’t really a show. It was an event, a sharing.

Rachel De-Lahay’s idea is a simple one: different writers leave a letter to be read out loud by a specific performer. The letter is in a sealed envelope and the performer reads it live, having never read it before. The evening kicks off with a long letter that Rachel wrote to one of her best friends, Inès de Clercq, and it is Inès who reads it. The letter is honest, and funny and uncomfortable for Inès to read, as it is a reminder that no matter how much Rachel loves her, her race can’t help but play a part in their relationship. It is uncomfortable for any white person to hear, to witness, to think about, and that’s the point. The young woman standing in front of me was completely overwhelmed by tears half way through this reading, and, throughout the night, the electricity of words being spoken that are so often, too often, left unsaid, was palpable. There was a charge; the air crackled with it. Of urgency, of energy, of presence.

The next letter was written as a piece of spoken word poetry. Fantastic writing by Jammz; it also dealt with race in friendship, and Ben Bailey Smith (‘I’m mixed race, so I’m my own white best friend’) was direct and charming, and did the words justice. The final, and longest letter of the evening was written by Zia Ahmed and read by Zainab Hasan. This took a different form again, with Zainab reading out a selection of quotes – from Zia himself, from the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, from popular Muslim comedians – before reading Zia’s unbearably painful story of continual racist profiling which led him finally to stop his job as a nanny.

It went against the grain to give this show a star rating, as the words and stories of these artists and performers don’t need my critical validation, but they do need to be listened to. So consider my five stars a way of saying that this is essential theatre. Get yourself a ticket and open your ears.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography courtesy The Bunker

 


My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid)

The Bunker until 23rd March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Section 2 | ★★★★ | June 2018
Breathe | ★★★★ | August 2018
Eris | ★★★★ | September 2018
Reboot: Shorts 2 | ★★★★ | October 2018
Semites | ★★★ | October 2018
Chutney | ★★★ | November 2018
The Interpretation of Dreams | ★★★ | November 2018
Sam, The Good Person | ★★★ | January 2019
Welcome To The UK | ★★ | January 2019
Boots | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Fun Home – 5 Stars

Fun

Fun Home

Young Vic

Reviewed – 30th June 2018

★★★★★

“David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake”

 

Alison is a gay graphic novelist and, now in her 40s, she’s sifting through her memories, reflecting on her childhood growing up in a funeral home (or fun home for short), her coming out, her relationship with her father and his subsequent suicide. Alison never liked wearing dresses and her father never liked the way she drew and maybe they are worlds apart or maybe they are more similar than they ever knew.

Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel, an autobiographical tragicomedy, has been adapted for the stage by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and what an adaptation it is. ‘Fun Home’ won five Tony’s on Broadway where it premiered in 2015, and it’s very obvious why. This is an overwhelmingly outstanding piece of theatre, an exemplar of queer representation onstage, studded with breathtaking performances.

There isn’t a weak link across the cast. Our three Alison’s, child (Harriet Turnbull alternating with Brooke Haynes), university student (Eleanor Kane), and reflecting forty three year old (Kaisa Hammarlund), meld naturally into each other. Turnbull is bright and honest onstage and the song ‘Ring of Keys’ is a particularly moving and relatable moment. Kane’s Alison is equally fantastic, exploding into her sexuality at university, signing up to organise protests and falling in love with the wonderfully balanced Joan, played faultlessly by Cherrelle Skeete. Hammarlund’s older Alison takes us with her on this journey of remembering, watching over her life and drawing its pieces back together, strong and quietly moving. Zubin Varla is Bruce, Alison’s father, volatile and vibrant and brooding. Jenna Russell as Bruce’s defeated wife, Helen, is worn down, exhausted and deeply moving in her brief moments of openness.

David Zinn’s design is spectacular, and the breathtaking reveal (I won’t say too much) is the icing on an already many-tiered cake.

Witty, playful, tender and moving all at once, the production is skillfully crafted so that these scenes exist alongside each other slipping between humour and gravity with ease and skill. Expect to cry. A lot. This is the best piece of theatre I have seen in sometime, an exemplar of queer theatre and musical theatre, and flawless across the board.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Marc Brenner

 


Fun Home

Young Vic until 1st September

 

Related
Previously reviewed at this venue
How to win Against History | ★★★★ | December 2017

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com