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Review: Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, New Wolsey Theatre, February 2

PUBLISHED: 16:38 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:38 06 February 2017

Apphia Campbell  as Nina Simone in the play Black Is The Colour of My Voice

Apphia Campbell as Nina Simone in the play Black Is The Colour of My Voice

©Joshua Michael Tintner

Apphia Campbell writes, performs and sings this stunning, moving and inspirational show inspired by the life of Nina Simone.

Apphia Campbell  as Nina Simone in the play Black Is The Colour of My Voice Apphia Campbell as Nina Simone in the play Black Is The Colour of My Voice

Legends occupy a place somewhere in between genius and deity. Apphia Campbell in this show gives us both and a woman who exists somewhere in between. A character called Mina Bordeaux, whose life resembles Nina Simone’s and if you weren’t paying attention you’d be hard pressed to notice, as so many of the events described are from Nina Simone’s life, including her passion for Bach.

In a stark and empty set, Apphia as Nina/Mina reflects on her life, speaking to the Father she lost whilst their relationship was broken and through the show reaches out to the past in an attempt to make sense and heal her present. Apphia Campbell places this woman somewhere between life and death, reality and fantasy, alone yet defiantly honest as she makes peace with herself.

Campbell embodies the determined spirit of Nina Simone and her voice is gorgeous. Nina/Mina says “Memories are music” and when the moment comes when Eugenia transforms into “her”, “I Put a spell on you” is re-imagined, and is extraordinarily powerfully supernatural. Each number from the Nina Simone songbook Campell sings, carefully punctuates moments in Mina/Nina’s life giving a brilliant new resonance not only to the songs but also to the very act of performance itself.

2 chairs, a photo and a suitcase of memories show how the trappings of fame are transient and it is the artist themselves who sacrifice in order to communicate all our pain and rally us to keep going. The excellently paced and deeply poignant writing presents her journey as a quest to make sense of her gifts beyond her ambition that is dictated and thwarted by the terms laid out to her by the racist society she is born into. Mina/ Nina discovers her purpose and fire in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. “Missisippi goddam” is repeated by Apphia Campbell as a battle cry for Mina/Nina’s fight and through her muisc her echo still reaches out to us, urgent as ever, today.

This show was quite rightly sold out at the New Wolsey and is hugely recommended.

Jackie Montague

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