Isabel Adomakoh-Young, Naomi Maxwell, Lolia Etomi, Tasila Banda - 'Positive' [For Colored Girls]
Thirty-eight years after Ntozake Shange’s innovative choreopoem dared to speak the unspoken, seven young women emerge from the darkness to sing a black girl’s song. Shange’s lyrical work explores the experiences of black women in the west with creativity and honesty. The topics of love, betrayal, rape, friendship, pregnancy and self worth are all examined by our seven performers as they use music and dance to communicate the depth of Shange’s words. What is perhaps most incredible about this profoundly affecting production is that it is purely a work of love. Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan was inspired to share Shange’s work during her first year at Cambridge University and the entire cast is made up of fellow students. Despite the lack of professional input there is nothing in the least bit amateurish about this production. The cast deliver the individual poems with flair and creativity. The smooth direction is inventive and the skilful choreography is often mesmerising. As the room is filled with colour, sound and movement the profound urban verses paint a complex picture which is as starkly relevant today as it was in 1975.
The For Colored Girls cast deliver the individual poems with flair and creativity. The smooth direction is inventive and the skilful choreography is often mesmerising.
The performers are identified only by a colour, which is marked by their vivid satin skirts, scarves and matching nail varnish. Known simply as ‘Lady in Yellow’ or ‘Lady in Red’ the characters have consistent personalities but also flow into each other’s monologues. Lady in Green played by Naomi Maxwell expresses the frustration and loss of identity that so often comes with a bad relationship, relayed with bristling anger. Lady in Yellow on the other hand is a more quietly accepting and innocent character. Isabel Adomakoh Young plays the role with unaffected sincerity. Tasila Banda plays L.A. based Lady in Red with astounding sensuality. Her desire to be desired is matched only by her need to be in control of the men who see her as a mere erotic novelty.
The choreography by Nicole Bryan-Quamina is stunningly original and performed magnificently by the cast. The trainee barrister also makes an appearance as Sechita- an Egyptian goddess figure with remarkable grace. The show’s director and of course originator Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan plays Lady in Blue. This Harlem based character is the most overtly defiant and angry. Her poem depicting abortion is intense and delivered with raw emotion by Ogunseitan. More upbeat verses are delivered by Stephanie Goulei as Lady in Brown. She has a cheekiness to her performance as she tells of her literary heroes and mocks the rule of white people in 1955 New Orleans. Co-producer Ifeyinwa Frederick plays Lady in Orange- a restless spirit with a love of dance. Light on her feet and punctuating her words with winding arms and sweeping legs she captures the freedom of dance beautifully. Lolia Etomi plays Lady in Purple whose innate desire to be loved makes her vulnerable. Etomi plays this oh so familiar character skilfully and with a natural presence.
For Colored Girls is a magnificent production; the obvious dedication and talent of the performers paying tribute to the power of Shange’s poetry.
The issues related by Shange’s work are universal, but told from the specific perspective of black women across the American states. The actors demonstrate the unique position of dealing with life’s most harrowing obstacles whilst also being considered ‘Other.’ The camaraderie on the stage is rousing with lots of affirmations and displays of sisterhood so central to the theme of unity. Most strikingly, the addition of dance and live music including a Billie Holiday solo take the poems to a thoroughly visceral and relatable level of profundity. A magnificent production; the obvious dedication and talent of the performers paying tribute to the power of Shange’s poetry.
For Colored Girls – one night only at the Canada Water Culture Space
Meet the cast of For Colored Girls – London
Ifeyinwa Frederick – interview
Press release – For Colored Girls – London