The first of Koko Brown’s colour trilogy, White is an intimate portrait of growing up mixed race in the 90s and 00s. While fans of the poet might know her best for her spoken-word performances at events like Word Up and Sonar Sounds, Brown uses White to show the full breadth of her talents, as she skillfully employs the use of a vocal loop pedal.
An intimate portrait of growing up mixed race in the 90s and 00s
While her website describes her poetry as ‘brutally raw’ and ‘heartbreaking,’ its actually Koko’s humour that makes her stand out from the crowds of spoken-word poets exploring themes of identity. As she dances between the language of identity politics and Spice Girl references, Brown pokes fun at the special-brand of racism aimed at mixed-race people. Alongside moments of serious reflection, the performer’s cheeky grin and natural charisma helps to keep the audience engaged in what could otherwise be quite a somber performance.
Far from the one-dimensional spoken word of yesteryear, Brown’s use of vocal-looping in the show helps to create much needed tension and adds a fresh dimension to the performance. Looping back and forth through the defining moments of her childhood, with both the loop pedal and her own unique brand of circular storytelling, Brown slowly offers the audience a picture of her experiences growing up with mixed heritage.
While spoken-word poets often slip into the trap of navel-gazing about their own identity, Brown brings a healthy dose of self-awareness to the genre. Jokily admitting that the show is all about herself, she keeps the audience on side as she carefully uses the personal to critique the political.
An excellent addition to The Old Market’s Reigning Women season, White is the first of three plays by the London-born poet. It is soon to be followed by Grey, a show about mental health, and Pink which explores themes of gender and sexuality.