Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61), Edinburgh
Until 26 August 2018
If there had been a call to march right then I would have gladly followed and from the rapturous response of the audience, I wasn’t the only one. I walked out of Queens of Sheba feeling a bit teary in a kind of happy/sad/exhilarated way. It’s the first Fringe play I’ve seen that has evoked such a strong emotional response.
The reason is partly the subject matter, partly the delivery and partly the collective response of the audience. Queens of Sheba by theatre company Nouveau Riché is an examination of the twin prejudices facing black women – racism and sexism – but also a celebration of sisterhood, determination and defiance.
Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku and Veronica Beatrice Lewis burst onto the stage dancing and singing in a way that denotes total comfort and an air of freedom.
They return to their dancing in between stories of misogynoir (race and gender bias) – the white boyfriend who wants an ‘exotic’ girlfriend, the boss who won’t attempt to pronounce a name and the sexist black boyfriend.
The words are delivered almost like poetry, the dialogue divided and performed with lightning switches between performers and almost musical refrains echo throughout the piece.
It is a choral lament to everyday microaggression and unconscious bias, a frustration with having to be what you’re not to survive and fighting against twin tides of prejudice.
Who they are is in the dancing and singing, having fun, full of life, vitality, possibility and defiance.
It is a powerful, poetic and potent piece of empowerment for black women, for all women.
If there had been a call to march right then I would have gladly followed and from the rapturous, applause, standing ovation and ululating, I wasn’t the only one.