Tar Baby

Tar Baby is a show caught between two worlds, comedy and drama, poignant and silly, white and black. This reflects its co-writer and actor Desiree Butch’s life: she’s too black for some and not black enough for others, this duality leading to a deeply moving and funny piece of theatre.

I can’t recommend this show highly enough

Desiree guides us through the attractions of carnival, which are all contained in one multifaceted box. She quickly has audience members on stage picking up grains of rice and packs of sugar, taking us through the history of slavery. It’s a perfect way to set the tone of the show; it’s anarchic and hilarious but has a serious point to make.

There is a lot of audience interaction and it works so well because Desiree is always quick-witted and friendly. Even though the people on stage are guided (or forced) to say and do some quite uncomfortable things, there is never an air of malice. These sections are used to help tease out the audience’s prejudices or mistaken beliefs. If you are prone to white middle-class guilt, Tar Baby will have you squirming with shame and laughter in equal measures.

The shows script is tight, focused, and thoughtful. Its structure is a masterclass in pacing and payoff. But it’s Desiree’s performance that really makes the show stand out. She is sickeningly talented, able to tell a joke as well as bring the room to teary thoughtfulness. Without her presence, the show could end up being a tough slog as we are forced to see how alive and well racism is today. She never comes across as preachy, even though that would be completely acceptable given the context.

I can’t recommend this show highly enough; it’s the funniest and the most moving show I’ve seen this fringe and proves to be utterly unforgettable.

Reviews by James W. Woe

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Can America only dream in Black and White? One black woman will decide. HuffingtonPost.com's Favourite Female Comedian, Desiree Burch, challenges the notion of a post-racial America in this interactive carnival of race and capitalism. With a socially conscious comedic style reminiscent of Richard Pryor and Louis CK, Burch uses stand-up, current events and autobiography to speak to America's growing majority of minority experiences. Featuring: Games! Cotton candy! Singing and dancing! White liberal guilt! 'Funny... kinetic showmanship' (New York Times). 'Smart, original, refreshing and maybe even necessary' (New Yorker).