GREY by Koko Brown

Review by: Christina McDougall
Published: Friday, 5th July 2019, 9:15am

Through spoken word and music, GREY addresses a topic that most people shy away from –black women with depression. GREY is the second part in a trilogy created by spoken word performer Koko Brown and features Koko and Sapphire Joy on a simple stage. Koko creates sounds with her voice to compose instrumental beats that harmonise with the personal words she shares with the audience. Koko’s music intertwines with Sapphires choreography of sign language and physical movements perfectly to represent Koko’s inner thoughts.

By the time the curtain went down on GREY, we walk away with a better awareness and understanding of the extreme pressure black women have from society. Not only do black women face racial and gender discrimination we are also expected to stay strong, be nice and always be willing to help everyone else apart from ourselves.

This play is unique, creative, raw and honest

Watching GREY made me reflect on myself, like the character in the story I too often find myself battling with sadness – a type of sadness that can linger for too long and can force you to shut the world out. It allowed me to see that I am not alone and challenged me to think that I should encourage those around me who also suffer in silence.

This message is particularly important as according to the NHS, black British women are more prone than white women to experience common mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, panic, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Even more disturbing are the findings from a University of Cambridge study which concluded that black women aged between 16 and 34 are more prone to self-harm than white women, mainly through some form of substance abuse. – The Guardian

Koko creates all her music through sounds on the stage which was fascinating to watch. It highlighted her talent and allowed her to tell her very honest story in an effective way. Her expressive face and soft voice really had the audience engaged as she shared her own journey through depression.

Sapphire blew me away with her acting, she embodied her character so well as she communicates her story through sign language. Every emotion is clearly written on her face which allowed me to believe what she was trying to say.

What was special about this play was the unexpected emotions I felt when both actors describe the definition of the word black. Such negativity comes from a colour that we can often forget. As a black woman, it made me feel emotional as I knew it would open the eyes to those that are not black and female. It gave me hope that audience members would leave the room with a new form of understanding of the disrespect and struggles we go through.

It’s the type of play I would want everyone to see so that they can form a clear understanding of how hard it can be to be black women

This play is unique, creative, raw and honest. The physical movement was a great touch and having sign language allowed the play to be inclusive to everyone. I wish the passion Koko displayed when she broke down the definitions of the words ‘black’ and ‘women’ were more present in other parts of the play to help hold the audience attention and ensure the message of the play resonated with them.

But, it’s the type of play I would want everyone to see so that they can form a clear understanding of how hard it can be to be black women. Yes, black women are strong, brave and straight up amazing, but we are also human beings and we too get sad, feel extreme pressures and need support and encouragement from others. I hope this play will encourage many more theatres to produce plays about mental health within the black community.

NEED TO KNOW: GREY is at Ovalhouse until 13 July 2019 | BOOK TICKETS | Fine out more | Read interview with Koko Brown