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Review: Theatre

Voices From The Black That I Am

Voices From The Black That I Am

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Four wooden chairs on an empty stage - but, like the monologues that make up this lunchtime feast, every line and detail has been purposely chosen. From blonde wood to ebony black stain, with each back a different style, this furniture whispers: "Not all chairs are the same." The performers who sit in them will occasionally utter the words "the black that I am" but their experiences, their views on colour and identity, sexuality and cultural influences will reveal a mosaic of differences: not all Jamaicans are the same. Writer Karl O'Brian Williams gives voice to his characters' individuality with a muscular, poetic style that can support ironic humour alongside intense soul-searching and serious reflections on the politics and prejudices that get tangled up in black roots.

Kat Beckford's modern woman, in her tribal print and top-knot plaits, throws down the gauntlet to racism by declaring she's in a relationship with a white guy, and feistily weathering the disapproval of family and friends. Tunji Lucas as The Kept Man unleashes a turmoil of pent-up anger and anguish at being a sugar daddy's sex object in a country where homosexual acts are illegal. Angela Wynter (Church Lady) is the holy-roller snob and hypocrite who justifies bad-mouthing another woman because she wraps her head in African cloths - the truth is, the bridling, sniping Wynter owns a hat shop. Finally, Linden Walcott-Burton muses on the shade card of his ethnicity - where does his cafe-latte skin put him on the colour/class spectrum that defines him in the eyes of the world? Director Gareth Nicholls and a compelling cast totally shun histrionics as the Voices - and what you hear is illuminating, challenging and profound.

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