The Vaults, London – until 13 October 2019
Combining jazz, R&B, gospel and rock music, Shida tells the story of a young African-American girl who dreams of becoming a writer. Written and performed by Jeannette Bayardelle and directed by Tony Award-winning producer Andy Sandberg, this UK premiere is exciting, truthful and special.
The beaming yellow posters lining the walls of the Vaults may lead you to think you are in for a shiny, feel-good show, but that’s not quite true. This is a stark look at a woman who suffers a variety of injustices and prejudices before finding the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s light and shade and an emotional journey which will tug at your heartstrings but continually entertain.
This is a quick paced show, which at 75 minutes really does pack in a lifetime of drama. At times it feels too much is being focused on, and the audience aren’t given a moment to process and sometimes things get jumbled, but for a debut this is very good.
Clancy Flynn’s lighting design is fantastically expressive, with some striking moments; and Charlie Corcoran’s simple design is a great backdrop for an emotional show. Under the musical direction of Noam Galperin the band tackles the varied score with energy and fizz.
Bayardelle is a quadruple threat indeed, having both written and performed this show. Her voice is the definition of power and she siiiiiings throughout. However, her writing leaves a little to be desired. Whilst the story is striking, the text and song lyrics often describe as opposed to show. Instead of allowing the audience to draw out the meaning themselves, they are almost spoon fed the plot. This does give the show an unsophisticated feel at times but thanks to Bayardelle’s fantastic characterisation and performance, everything is still highly entertaining.
It’s rare to see such a provocative performance from a stellar performer in such an intimate space and it’s worth taking a trip just for the bragging rights of seeing Bayardelle up close.