Dark and Lovely by Selina Thompson – review
Ovalhouse Theatre

Published: Friday, October 9, 2015 11:31 AM | Review by: Ronke Lawal | Afridiziak Star Rating:
Audience & Tumbleweave Audience & Tumbleweave

Afro Hair is explored through a historical, political and sociological context highlighting that whilst from a scientific stand point it is “just hair” in reality it is so much more.


As we walked into the theatre space in which “Dark and Lovely” is performed we were welcomed by a giant igloo made of hair. The unusual looking igloo was in fact the “tumbleweave” installation which sets the scene for this interactive performance. We are invited to explore the “tumbleweave” and discover its hidden treasures, symbolic of the hidden treasures of afro hair itself. As Selina Thompson (read interview) welcomes us into the space with rum punch and a warm smile she proceeds to share her hair story and experiences with hair with us in her own distinctive way. Afro Hair is explored through a historical, political and sociological context highlighting that whilst from a scientific stand point it is “just hair” in reality it is so much more.


Her anecdotal style of storytelling and her authenticity allows us to view her experiences as a black, British woman from the African-Caribbean Diaspora. What was particularly refreshing was the fact that Selina’s experiences took place in Leeds, it was so good to hear about the black experience outside of London. “Dark and Lovely” explores everything from the psychology of afro hair to the impact of Eurocentric influences on our perceptions of beauty. The fact that hair can be used to bring families together whilst at the same time causing so much tension and judgement within social circles. The perfect example of this was Selina’s “Big Chop” which caused a stir across her network of friends and her family unit.


Inside the Tumbleweave Inside the Tumbleweave

This is a moving and compelling stage production, which integrates a strong use of sound and design to bring this one-woman show to life.


Using her own research and conversations with hairdressers, barbers, hair stores as well as customers, we get a rich and in-depth insight into the multi-layered and complex relationship that black women have with their hair. Every type and texture of hair is discussed with a particularly powerful poetic monologue which reflects on what it considered to be the holy grail of hair, blonde hair.


Dark & Lovely celebrates what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be black, specifically a black woman, through the way we wear our natural hair and the debate that surrounds the natural hair movement. This is a moving and compelling stage production which integrates a strong use of sound and design to bring this one woman show to life. The subject matter resonated with me and that familiarity allowed for a sense of reassurance, a sense of normality to something which is often considered so “unusual” or “exotic” in the Eurocentric mainstream space. Whilst it is a production about afro hair it is not just for people from the African Diaspora. I encourage everyone to watch this whilst it is on tour. The star is undoubtedly Selina, whose ability to capture our attentions and imaginations, speaks volumes to her talent as an artist. “Dark and Lovely” is a revelation. Experience it for yourself.


Info: Dark & Lovely is at Ovalhouse Theatre until October 17, 2015 | book tickets and then on national tour until November 28, 2015 | See listing



Related links

Selina Thompson - interview




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