Having watched ‘Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act’ at The Orange Tree Theatre a while ago, I was excited to see if ‘Yellowman‘ would be able to blow me away like ‘Statements’ did. I can confirm it exceeded my expectations and fully blew me away!
Set in deep South Carolina in the 60s, Alma (Nadine Higgin) is a young black girl who just wants to enjoy her childhood, however, she is constantly reminded by those around her that her skin tone is too ‘dark’ for her to be accepted in society. By contrast, Eugene (Aaron Anthony), a young black boy who just wants to read comic books and play all day, is told he is too fair to be black and too black to be white, causing him to be confused by his identity.
“Both Aaron Anthony and Nadine Higgin did an outstanding job – each character they performed was mind blowing and believable. They performed their hearts out and laid their souls bare.”
Alma and Eugene build an unbreakable friendship, despite those around them constantly poisoning them with their toxic thoughts on the colour of their skin. The play shows Alma and Eugene growing from teenagers to young adults as their relationship blossoms from friendship to love.
Despite them both being black, they face colourism within their own community, which leaves their relationships fragile and their insecurities heightened. With bitterness, jealousy and colourism consuming everyone’s thoughts, Alma and Eugene have to fight extra hard to keep their relationship secure. However, the words that taunted them throughout their lives start to fester in their minds causing them to doubt their self-worth. Generational trauma floods both characters.
Alma cannot erase her mother’s words of her being “too dark and too big”, these taunt her and make her believe she is not good enough for anything. Eugene turns to alcohol as he tries to drown out his father’s rants about him being “soft and yellow” and that he won’t achieve anything in life. ‘Yellowman’ allows us to see how generational trauma can have a negative impact on both individuals and communities.
“Director Diane Page has created a masterpiece with this play, and playwright Dael Orlandersmith is truly a genius as the storytelling was like nothing I had ever seen or heard before”.
Set in the round on a naked wooden square floor, designer Niall McKeever kept the stage simple, so that the actors had nowhere to hide. I loved that. Lighting designer Rajiv Patttani used soft lights to create the perfect atmosphere. Although the designs were simple, they were ideal for this play.
Both Aaron and Nadine did an outstanding job playing Eugene and Alma. They took on multiple characters and had me fully committed to each one. From Alma’s harsh mother to Eugene’s drunk father, each character they performed was mind-blowing and believable.
I could go on about how great the play was because it was exactly that. But the acting from Aaron and Nadine is what left me speechless. They performed their hearts out and laid their souls bare. They told their stories as though they went through it themselves and I believed every word they said and felt every tear they shed. I can honestly say that this play had two of the best actors I have seen in a very long time.
Director Diane Page has created a masterpiece with this play, and playwright Dael Orlandersmith is truly a genius as the storytelling was like nothing I had ever seen or heard before. This play was mind-blowing, thought-provoking, tear-jerking, and straight-up phenomenal. ‘Yellowman’ is exactly what excites me about theatre and will stay in my mind for a long time. It deserves endless standing ovations and I couldn’t recommend it enough.