Theatre Review: For Colored Girls
You no doubt know of Tyler Perry's 2010 film For Colored Girls starring Kerry Washington, Thandie Newton, Janet Jackson and Macy Gray to name a few. What you may not be familiar with is the fact that the film began life as Ntozake Shange's choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Penned in 1975, Shange had invented and coined her own art form wanting to have a term to explain this combination of poetry and dance.
In November 2012 the first all-black, all female cast appeared on a Cambridge Stage with their interpretation of the choreopoem. On top of making history, the Cambridge Students' production received five star reviews and as we sat down at Canada Water Culture Space to watch their one night only London performance, we could feel the buzz in the audience.
Having sold out in 24 hours, the last few audience members squeezed in to the auditorium just as the lights dimmed. Introducing us to the seven different women whose lives we would follow, the young cast instantly reeled us in. Thus followed an intense experience as the characters led us through their experiences of infidelity, abortion, rape, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. Even while exploring these sincere issues each actor clearly connected with the text as beautiful moments of joy and revelation shone through.
It wasn't long before each member of the cast had built up their own relationship with the audience, however it was Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan, also director, co-producer, lighting designer and musical coordinator of the production who stood out from the very start as she introduced herself as Lady in Blue.
Each making use of their personal abilities, it wasn't their theatrical skills which took the audience through a whirlwind of emotions but their intimacy with each other, their experiences as females and their passion for the piece which enabled them to create such a visceral performance. Studying a range of subjects from Law and Politics, Philosophy and Sociology, this group of young women are not claiming to be professional performers and that is what makes this production so magical.
In line with all her other achievements should be noted her perceiving, however accidental, that now is the time. Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan has stumbled upon a demand for such a play to be brought to the young UK audience and she just so happens to be the perfect person to deliver it.
Words: Lloyd Naomi Lewis (@LloydNaomiLewis)