Review: Selina Thompson’s Dark & Lovely

By November 29, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Bradford.

Photo Francesca Tennant

Photo Francesca Tennant

Selina Thompson’s one-woman show begins with suggesting a premise: “Hair is just hair”. Then this very notion is explored, questioned and eventually negated. But all this is done in an incredibly personal and audience-friendly journey. The set consists of an enclosure made of hair which she dubs a ‘tumbleweave’ and we are offered a glass of rum punch on the way in too as well as being able to explore the weird igloo.

photo-sodiumAlthough the show has plenty of humour Thompson is not afraid to be venomously angry and her targets are cultural colonialism as well as overt racism and sexism. She questions the conventional notions of female beauty, especially for black women living in Britain, and even more specifically Chapeltown in Leeds where her extensive R&D took place. There is a great amount of self-exposure and brutal honesty with references to both high and low culture, very postmodern style.

It is given a politico-cultural context alongside anecdotal storytelling and particularly moving is the final tale as if at an African fireside. The sound design is very evocative and immersive and the promenade performance makes the show’s pace quite thrilling but not rushed. Thompson tackles many taboos and succeeds in quite a lot of myth-busting in a show that is both inclusive whilst also being fresh enough for those more familiar with its content.

It would be easy to ghettoise or marginalise such a piece of cutting-edge, but I for one would like to see this come back in more mainstream venues and for wider audiences.

Reviewed by Rich Jevons at Theatre in the Mill, 29 November 2015.