I was all set to take a few notes during this as I usually do when watching a show with the intention of writing about it, but I’ll admit midway through I had to stop and just soak up every bit of excellence.
Campbell not only presents an exceptionally profound, musically enhanced and historically engaging piece of writing, but her performance itself is on another level of brilliance. The play is inspired by the life of Nina Simone, although she remains unnamed throughout with our lead character referred to as Eugenia amongst her family and friends, and later Mena Bordeaux when onstage and amongst her fans.
Eugenia, who for the duration of the performance addresses her late father, takes us on a journey vicariously through the monologue she directs at him. She picks up his photograph perched on a side table several times, often holding the frame close to her body and singing to him. She reminisces on her childhood and young adult life – her overwhelming pull to classical piano from a young age, a lost love which she admits she’ll never have the strength to move on from, the allure of soul, blues and jazz music and the beginnings of her involvement in the civil rights movement.
For each segment of narrative, there is a musical break where Campbell sings a different Simone song that reflects the mood of the scene. Her voice is smooth and elating but has a gritty nuance that always brings us back to the reality of her struggles, regrets and realisations. In one particularly significant section, she flicks through imaginary television/ radio channels and a sequence of audio clips fill the silence of the space including the announcement of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Her reaction to this and the seismic devastation of the time is painful and memorable to watch.
BLACK IS THE COLOR OF MY VOICE is an incredibly refined piece of theatre that doesn’t once drop in pace, connection or meaning – drawing us in further every step of the way.
Don’t miss this! Tuesday 10th, Thursday 12th, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th August / 6pm / 12:15pm at Cromdale Theatre – Pleasance at EICC. 150 Morrison Street, EH3 8EE.
Photo by Geraint Lewis.
Tickets available here.