As I manoeuvred through the hustle and bustle of culturally rich East London, I noticed a poster with a woman smiling effortlessly with her full afro hair. The image was beside the large bold text, ‘The Bubbly Black Girl’. I saw that it was a musical performance showing at the Stratford Theatre; I instantly bought tickets and did not realise the full title of the play.
The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin.
My mood went from excitement to conservative during the beginning of the performance. I discerned that the play is centred around race, with every sort of ‘ism’ that operates to police black woman and shape their identity. I REPEAT, I was so excited when I bought the tickets; I did not bother to read the synopsis of what I had scheduled to watch.
Seventeen years ago, Kristen Child wrote ‘The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin’. Tired of living in a state of fear, Kristen put her wellbeing first and decided to express the truth she thought would put a limit or even end her career. She depicted the reality of racism in America and how its manifestations effects society; from racial profiling and police brutality to classism, sexism, and colourism.
The musical begins in the 1960’s in Los Angeles and follows the life of Viveca, from childhood to adulthood through the period when African Americans were fighting for civil rights. Talented actor, Karis Jack portrays ‘young’ Viveca, the girl filled with optimism and joy. She is blinded by hope and is willingly naive to the fact racism is doing the utmost to stop her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a star on Broadway.
Through Viveca not directly confronting the issues of racism, you witness the effects of how Viveca internalises racism and the growth of how she becomes uncomfortable in her constantly “changing” skin
‘Older’ Viveca’s (played by Sophia Mackay) defence mechanisms of being non-confrontational and over-accommodating to dominant society norms, helps her to navigate around toxic environments. However, her coping devices show frailty from the constant pressures of a society that continues to shape her into a woman that it finds most comfortable with.
Kristen Child puts the magnifying glass on racism in a witty and intelligent way.
I laughed and was thoroughly entertained throughout the majority of this musical production. I was enchanted by the casts powerful and beautiful voices. I bopped my head and tapped my feet to their soulful and rhythmic performance. After I had left Stratford theatre, a large part of me felt – how could I find humour at the effects of racism? After a few moments of inner dialogue; I realised Kristen Child’s goal. Racism is the “joke”! Once you get real and no longer humour it, you can come to terms with who you are, and what you can become.
The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin is currently showing at Stratford Theatre until 11th March 2017.
Click here for more information and to buy tickets – http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/the-bubbly-black-girl-sheds-her-chameleon-skin#schedules