1960s America. A hot day; 38 degrees in the shade. We certainly feel the heat in this piercing, soulful production at the Traverse theatre.
With a performance like Bushell-Mingo’s, you really feel you are lucky to be in the room.
Josette Bushell-Mingo writes and performs in this one-woman show, using Nina Simone’s music and political acts to make parallels with today’s society and question how far we have really come. This is definitely not a Nina Simone tribute act.
Bushell-Mingo is a powerhouse performer. She commands the stage with an incredible presence. And her voice? Out of this world. Bushell-Mingo questions those things we find most difficult to talk about. And question them she does. And us. Direct address adds to the uncomfortable subject matter. She swiftly changes between her Nina persona and herself, constantly questioning Nina as if she is God. It can be difficult at times to sit through but that is what makes this piece so breathtaking. Dritëro Kasapi’s direction is impeccable. The breaths between statements, the questioning the audience, it all makes complete sense.
The musicians, as Nina’s band, bring a wonderful underscoring to Bushell-Mingo’s words. Whether that be a Simone classic or a tinkle of Beethoven or even a smatter of Cool and The Gang, it all adds to the multi-layered performance. Bushell-Mingo interacts with the musicians at exactly the right moments; encouraging and quashing them in equal measure. With excellent musical direction by Shapor Bastansiar, we move seamlessly from thought to thought without ever losing track of the story. The set and costume (by Rosa Maggiora) and lighting (by Matt Haskins) add to this, taking us from dressing room to performance with small but effective choices.
It’s an important piece of theatre. One that definitely needs to be seen, regardless of race, colour or creed. With a performance like Bushell-Mingo’s, you really feel you are lucky to be in the room.