Josephine
  • By Kate Nora
  • |
  • 1st Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★★★

As the last notes of La Vie en Rose hang in the air, we jump to our feet to give our enthralling leading lady the standing ovation she so richly deserves. You’ve heard of a triple threat? Add another dozen skills and you have Tymisha Harris. The star and co-creator of Josephine can do every 1920s dance style you’ve ever heard of (and a few you haven’t). Her spoken word is engaging, comedic timing effortless and singing divine. Most of all, she exudes warmth and charm in every movement and expression. She has a story to tell and we are her spellbound audience.

From ballgown to banana belt, Tymisha Harris is a tour de force.

Josephine is a one-woman cabaret/musical centered on the true story of Josephine Baker, an African-American showgirl who thrived in 1920s Paris after struggling in a segregated America. Never heard of her? Well, a lot of people couldn’t pick Alexander Hamilton out of a line-up until a few years ago, and it only takes an hour for us to learn everything we need to know about this iconic Jazz Age entertainer.

One moment we are trusted friends, listening to Josephine’s stories as she changes behind a screen in her dressing room. The next, we are sitting in a crowded Parisian opera house, breathlessly watching her live performance. At all times, Harris has us in the palm of her hand. When she first swaps her elegant dress for a provocative burlesque ensemble, Josephine is not at the mercy of our gaze. Instead, it is her mercy we must rely on as she emboldens us to appreciate the female form in all its glory. Fans of Funny Girl might appreciate the similarities of a young starlet using comedy to feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar role (beautiful goddess for Fanny, exotic seductress for Josephine).

If Harris has one co-star, it is the wardrobe department. Josephine has more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert, each outfit more spectacular than the last. You would be forgiven for missing a few lines of dialogue while taking in the white, gem-encrusted, flapper two-piece—especially once Josephine starts working that feather boa.

Key moments include; her first evocative dance, her speech and performance at the March on Washington, and a fan dance that will make you want to take up the craft. Along the way, she playfully uses people in the audience as stand ins for her various lovers—take from that what you will, just be sure you know how to tie a brassiere before claiming a coveted front row seat.

From ballgown to banana belt, Tymisha Harris is a tour de force. “I can be good to you for one night,” Josephine claims. “Can’t promise much more than that.” But at the Edinburgh Fringe, one night is all it takes to fall in love.

Reviews by Kate Nora

Traverse Theatre

Clybourne Park

★★★★
PQA Venues @Riddle's Court

More Myself Than I Am

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

The War of the Worlds

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Found Footage Festival: Volume 9

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Two Hearts: The Comeback Tour

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

This critically acclaimed off-Broadway biographical musical combines theatre, cabaret and burlesque to tell the story of the iconic Josephine Baker, the first African American international superstar and one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century. Starring six-time Best of the Fest winner Tymisha Harris, who was nominated for a 2018 Vivian Robinson award for her limited off-Broadway run. 'A star vehicle for Harris, and she delivers' (OrlandoSentinel.com). 'A tour de force' ***** (CBC). 'It's a perfect piece of theatre for the time we are currently in' ***** (PlaysToSee).

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