Mixed Brain

As a white Irish person, reviewing a person of colour’s experience of their treatment in the UK feels disingenuous. However, Nathan Byron in Mixed Brain makes this piece about him, a boy who calls Shepherd’s Bush his home and through questioning his own identity helps to explain the concept of identity and belonging as a whole to his audience. This inventive piece of theatre, oozing with dynamism, joins the dots between all people, marginalised or in a majority.

Powerful, truthful and sincere, Mixed Brain helps to unravel a difficult question

This lively, playful piece of theatre is full to the brim with energy. Byron bounces onstage and his sense of humour allows him to immediately engage with the audience. They are invited to participate in this play in a way that doesn’t seem forced; we don’t feel like strangers in a room and instead there is a sense of friendship, togetherness and unity. This feeling is masterfully created and harnessed by Byron, who charmingly works the crowd and tells us about his upbringing to help further our understanding of how he, being mixed race, identifies with that.

This high-energy play also has moments of calmness, as animated moments are broken up with tapes of his mum and dad telling stories from his childhood. These tapes are wholly unedited, natural accounts of events from the point of view of both of his parents. Byron could have chosen a far more pretentious, verbatim way of conveying this information, but these genuine accounts are honest and heartwarming. Though Byron always manages to gain it back, he could consider ways of maintaining this honesty while not losing energy in its delivery.

As Byron analyses the ways in which he is mixed beyond his heritage, he jumps from one thing to another. These staccato bursts of broken stories could be jarring, but Byron is an artful storyteller. He, knowing that he is 50% Jamaican and 50% English, takes a DNA test to confirm this. He proceeds to follow many tangents, playing game show-style games with the audience and discussing racist incidents, until coming around and finishing a serendipitous story. His masterful storytelling ability carries this style, but many scenes and transitions could benefit from some refinement. The venue also enhances this style of storytelling. Performed in the round and utilising the lighting rig to have multiple LED chases, we can visualise Byron’s brain going around in circles.

Powerful, truthful and sincere, Mixed Brain helps to unravel a difficult question; in a world in which everyone is different, how is being mixed a negative trait? In asking questions about his own identity, Byron openly invites us to consider our own, and though this play could be refined and polished, it is an individual’s honest account of matters close to his heart.

Reviews by Angela O'Callaghan

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The Blurb

'Playing football. A kid shouts "let’s do black v white". Another yells: "Nathan what team will you be on? You’re mixed..."' Star of Benidorm, writer for Rastamouse, 50% Jamaican, 50% British, 100% reppin’ Shepherd’s Bush. Nathan Bryon is many things. Mixed. Welcome to his world. Part story, part stand-up, a show fusing Afro-Caribbean flair and British awkwardness in a searing, searching exploration of what it means to be mixed-race and mixed-experience today. If you live in the middle does anywhere feel like home?