The Black That I Am

Taking a leaf from Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, The Black that I Am is a compilation of stories that delve into the minds of various women and their experiences of being black in the modern day. The play’s single actress manages to lead the audience through one tale to the next, hopping from the heart of Jamaica to a working woman in her thirties and to many more in between.

We leant forward in our seats and eager to hear more about these people’s life the entire way through the play.

Walking in, the first thing that strikes me is how cluttered the stage is. All over there are small pockets of space, filled with props and clothes, but there is just one actor in the centre. As the play begins to unfold however, the actor steps into each of these corners, a single spotlight shining on her, and the characters and setting fall into place. Each monologue has its own tale to tell that reaches out to the audience in different ways. As a white woman it often had me laughing at the links I could draw and realism in the words, so I imagine it would be even more impactful for someone of colour.

One poem ties these monologues together, the namesake of the play. Played overhead at the beginning, it comes back again and again between the scenes as we watch as the actor slowly undress and redress herself, placing on the mask of the next character. When she’s done, we get a moment to admire her new outfit and start to form a picture in our minds of what’s to come.

These changeovers are natural break from the emotion that runs deep through this play. Every time this brilliant actor puts on another outfit we are thrown into a new character without seemingly any effort on her part. She does a beautiful job of bringing these stories to life with only her words, gestures and a few props to work with.

With these impactful messages entwined throughout, the audience is engaged and interested from the beginning. It is a very simple yet elegant way of bringing these stories to life. That fact that there is so little action or relevant on stage performance means we are forced to focus on the words she is saying and the expression on her face. And with such a superb actor, this is very easy to do. We leant forward in our seats and eager to hear more about these people’s life the entire way through the play.

Reviews by Megan Atkins

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Performances

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The Blurb

The Black That I am explores blackness, gender, sexuality, religion and Jamaican nationalism. It is seen through the lens of individuals from different backgrounds confronted with the gaze of their own realities, causing introspection and awareness of herself as "other". Four monologues delve deep into aspects of different Jamaican identities. It follows the personal journey of the Jamaican experience and steers the audience through the many and sometimes difficult and political terrains of what it means to be Jamaican in and outside of Jamaica. The narrative constantly embodying Sankofa: looking back to go forward.

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