During lockdown, we have all been reduced to communicating from rectangular boxes with enough room for only our perfectly groomed heads and carefully censored bookshelves. This situation is hardly bearable for everyday meeting and conversations, let alone a piece of creative art. However, this proves to be no obstacle for Black Women Dating White Men. Here we are presented with a beautiful selection of Zoom conversations about what it means to be a black woman navigating the messy and complicated world of interracial love.
Here we are presented with a beautiful selection of Zoom conversations about what it means to be a black woman navigating the messy and complicated world of interracial love.
Director Khadifa Wong pins down the medium of a video call as art, and deploys it to bring out the very best of theatre. She uses the limitations of the digital form to her advantage and brings out the intimacy of the conversations in what can be a very distancing format. I felt as though I’d been personally invited into this private meeting between friends, with easy and natural jokes flipping between the video squares.
At a time when we must all be educating ourselves, recognising privilege and looking at ourselves in the mirror, this play has something for everyone, no matter who you are.
This is not all laughter, though – some tough topics are covered: racism, privilege and community acceptance all weave themselves into the dialogue. At one point the women discuss the difference in treatment they receive alone and when with their white partner, say what it’s like going to The Book of Mormon together. It is a remarkable achievement on the part of the actors to make such a stark and strong impression with only a small square to work with. No easy feat with limited movement and variety, but each of the five actors pulls off this challenge with apparent ease.
Every few moments there is a ‘blackout’ and we find ourselves in a different setting – different clothes, sometimes different backgrounds and a whole new nugget of conversation springs to life. Never from the top though. There are no questions posed in the forty minutes, just answers, leaving us to imagine where and how the dialogue began. We shift starkly from red wine giggles to coffee-fuelled debate. These changes show how the conversations are not a one-time issue to be addressed and dismissed, but an evolving topic with a grip on many lives. A continuous story.
Black Women Dating White Men is a prime example of what theatre needs to start doing in order to survive – grasp the resources available, and not just as a temporary measure. This play addresses timely subject matter, presented in a modern way (so modern in fact that it’s the only option…). A line which really stood out for me was: “he will never know what it’s like to have a sense of otherness”.
This play addresses timely subject matter, presented in a modern way
This play offers a captivating opportunity to listen, to be shocked and to try to understand. It allows us to glimpse a new angle on the dynamic story, the story from the inside, told by the women who live with the reality every day.