A ‘black box’ theatrical space greets the audience on arrival.
At the centre – lit softly and evocatively – is a tall, ornate ‘tree’ (or is it a ‘head-wrap’?), painstakingly crafted from blue rope.
Then… Complete darkness ascends.
At which point ‘Darkness’ appears, using the voice of a woman – firstly, in voice-over form; then in all her singing and moving glory. Seventy minutes later – after the artist has completed this chapter of her story – she becomes one with ‘the dark’ once more; making way for her ‘voice-over; incarnation once more, before bathing us all in darkness.
In between was one of the most seamless and deeply-inhabited evocations of African-Caribbean ancestral heritage that I have witnessed.
Everything that emanated from the artist – whether it be the singing (‘voicings’), dancing/ movement, narration/ poetry or comic patois – felt authentic, fully integrated and fresh.
“it is to performer Julene Robinson and her ancestors – that the highest praise must go. She has created a stage piece for the ages”
It was as if this perfectly polished and prepared piece was also the result of a creative ‘big bang’. By telling the story of her Jamaican ancestor’s Obeah (‘dark magic’) influences, sole performer and creator Julene Robinson reminds us of just some of the cultural accommodations and allowances that have been made on ‘our’ behalf, in order for proceeding generations of African-Caribbean warriors to ‘get over’.
Julene Robinson’s performance is incredible; whether spontaneously gyrating in response to a magical word association seemingly uttered unbidden from her mouth – or ‘moan-singing; in the voice of the ancestors in a bid to cleanse the blood from ‘deep, dark wounds of yore’ – she is spellbinding.
At the end, I overheard a fellow audience member express amazement that one solo performer could retain such focus, clarity and intensity for so long. The comment as well as this inspirational performance reminded me that, whatever truth the performer engages with (e.g. ‘The Dark’), they mustn’t ‘crack the blinds’ until the work is done.
Salutations to creative director Chadley Larnelle, lighting designer Stevie Porter, stage manager Holly Glenn and co-producer Pauline Walker. But it is to performer Julene Robinson and her ancestors – that the highest praise must go. She has created a stage piece for the ages.