Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh (Venue 14) – until 28 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Lucy Evans
Following the success of 2014 and 2015’s Black Is the Color of My Voice, Apphia Campbell returns to Gilded Balloon with another powerful one-woman show.
Combining traditional gospel and blues with original score, WOKE explores the lives of two real women, 42 years apart, and their struggles for civil rights in America. The first of the women is Ambrosia, a naive college student who starts at Washington University near Ferguson right at the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the second the notorious Black Panther Assata Shakur.
Ambrosia begins idealistic and naive, herself dismissing a similarity between the two movements, but she soon also begins to experience unfairness at the hands of the American justice system. Assata Shakur, formerly JoAnne Chesimard, was also politicised during her college years, and by showing the two women in parallel the similarities of their struggles are cleverly highlighted as the play goes on.
Campbell delivers this one-woman show with commitment and strength. The two women are easily distinguishable by their clear mannerisms and different vocal intonation, as well as Simon Hayes’ subtle yet effective lighting design. A myriad of other characters both male and female are also portrayed with clarity and poise. Under Caitlin Skinner’s thoughtful direction Campbell has true command over the stage.
Campbell has found her niche in plays with music, and when she smoothly transitions into song it feels natural and never forced. The fusion of traditional gospel and blues with original music masterfully reflects the parallel portrayal of the two women’s lives, and comes to a powerful climax with the weaving of new lyrics into a traditional melody to reference the fatal shooting of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster.
A powerful and compelling show, WOKE is a reminder of how the fight for equality is not over.
Running time: 1 hour
Presented as part of the Made in Scotland showcase
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (venue 14)
Friday 4 – Monday 28 Aug 2017
Daily (not 17-19): 2pm
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/woke