Former Hollyoaks star and fashion model Phina Oruche opened her one woman show Identity Crisis in South London’s Ovalhouse last night to an intimately small audience. Her dynamic energy, flawless beauty and raucous Scouse accent is enough to keep anyone transfixed to her on stage, but in this show I found that it was also her raw honesty and boisterous, hilarious wit that kept me engaged. I had previously interviewed her for Afridiziak so expected her to be funny and open but this show is her whole life up to today laid completely bare for everyone to see.
It was also her raw honesty and boisterous, hilarious wit that kept me engaged
Oruche plays nine different characters, black, white, young, old, male and female, and the effortlessly entertaining way that she transforms into all of these characters that have passed through her life and the ones that are still present is so creditable. Multiple personality disorder is a real thing but I took comfort in the knowledge that Phina was acting as the ease with which she switches accents and identity traits across these different people was great, the energy in this woman is astonishing.
We meet her overbearing Nigerian mother determined to protect her daughter, to the Rasta always trying to spread philosophy, to the stiff upper lipped official Sir Bobby Blue who always turns up in the face of bad news. This show is a whirlwind that takes us through her early formative years in Liverpool, where it was tough to be poor and black, to the fabulous and glamorous travels of her modelling days where her perceived identity as an African woman was constantly thrown on her like a costume. She also takes us into the darkness and grief of her 19-year-old niece’s unexpected death in her house back in 2011 and the media frenzy that followed.
Identity Crisis is not just a show about a black woman it is a show about all of us in post-colonial, Brexit Britain and who we really are and how we really see and connect with each other.
The set was simple with iconic images from her life projected in the backdrop of the theatre to illustrate her ordeals and acts as a press reel to all of the stages of her life and career, not only her celebrity existence but also her working class background and her determination to make it as a model and an actress. She was so honest in telling the audience everything about her life whilst also getting the audience to interact with her, which was not only entertaining and scary but intimidating enough to get us out of our comfort zones and find a common ground with the many characters she presents. These people were all immediately recognisable as we may have run into any one of them in our own lives.
Identity Crisis is not just a show about a black woman it is a show about all of us in post-colonial, Brexit Britain and who we really are and how we really see and connect with each other. Our identities are not just the colour of our skin or our gender but they are created by a multitude of the people that have come into our lives, the people who have affected us positively or negatively and even the people that we are yet to meet but still want to impress.
Identity Crisis is an enlightening, touching and funny performance that translates across gender, race and social status. I would recommend that you all go and see it.