salt: dispersed by Selina Thompson review

"Thompson unpacks the baggage that many of us carry around as we try to navigate our way in the world and make sense of ourselves"
Battersea Arts Centre
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Review by: Natalie Murray | @_soulwealth
Published: Saturday 26th, June 2021, 9:04pm

Selina Thompson in salt dispersed premiered with Battersea Arts Centre 2021 (c) Selina Thompson Company
Selina Thompson in salt dispersed premiered with Battersea Arts Centre 2021 (c) Selina Thompson Company

Selina Thompson’s one-woman show lasting just over an hour is an extremely personal piece introducing us to Thompon’s interior world by sharing her experience crossing the seas by cargo ship from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica. salt: dispersed is written and performed by Thompson.

This play made me think of the James Baldwin quote “All art is a kind of confession more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.”

At times, Thompson’s performance feels very much like a confessional – a stream of consciousness where she spills out on stage all the stories, conflicts, confusion locked up in her multiple identities as a black British, second-generation young woman. Thompson unpacks the baggage that many of us carry around as we try to navigate our way in the world and make sense of ourselves.

This work feels like a story Thompson has been compelled to tell for her own healing. For that reason sometimes, it doesn’t always land as strongly as it could with us as the audience. It may be because some of her stories feel dizzying – she speeds through them at such a pace. Sometimes they resonate, sometimes they do not. What the audience immediately recognises is the sheer force and weight of her experiences.

salt: dispersed is a theatrical antidote to gaslighting on race that so many of us experience every day.

In a world where the March 2021 Sewell Report (Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities) suggests there is no such thing as institutional racism, the confrontation of actual truths and the expression of real lived experiences is healing in itself. However, what I thought was particularly compelling about this play was that it centred on grief in regard to her experience as a black woman; there was a deep acknowledgment of the need for grieving for that hurt and loss.

salt: dispersed is a theatrical antidote to gaslighting on race that so many of us experience every day.

The sea analogy worked well; the idea of being lost at sea and always looking for a home; one foot in Europe, one foot in The Caribbean and one foot in Africa. The idea of constant movement is uncomfortable and disorientating but sometimes so is this play. And there is no easy answer to any of the questions about where we belong and how we deal with experiences in countries built on anti-blackness. The staging provided a reminder of this three-way division with a triangle representing the transatlantic slave route she had recreated.

The most powerful scene of the performance sees Thompson smashing pieces of salt with a hammer as she unpacks the racial dynamics of the toxic relationships on the ship. These exploitative dynamics reflect our existing situation globally. 

Do I feel the play could have been more evocative? Yes, I wasn’t completely transported to Elmina Castle or Jamaica when she talked of her visit there. However, for many people with African heritage salt: dispersed will speak to them on a primal level by acknowledging the truth of our experiences and then creating a validating space that allows them to breathe. For just over an hour of performance art, this is no mean feat.

NEED TO KNOW: salt: dispersed is being streamed online via Battersea Arts Centre until 27 June 2021 | Book Tickets | See listing

REVIEW OVERVIEW
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Selina Thompson’s one-woman show lasting just over an hour is an extremely personal piece introducing us to Thompon’s interior world by sharing her experience crossing the seas by cargo ship from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica. salt: dispersed is written and performed by Thompson. This...salt-dispersed-by-selina-thompson