Woke 5* (Edinburgh Fringe Review)
Pleasance at EICC - Cromdale Theatre
Apphia Campbell presented by James Seabright
In this passionate one-woman show, two lives run in parallel in different places and times to construct a narrative of black female voices and the collective struggle against institutional racism and police violence in the US. One timeline follows Assata Olugbala Shakur and her affiliation with the BLA in the 70s movement and the other tracks a young, fictional woman, Ambrosia, starting university in Washington state in 2014 during the start of the Ferguson riots.
"Two lives run in parallel to construct a narrative of black female voices and their collective struggle."
The performance is underscored by blues, protest song, and African American spirituals which injected a cultural history into these highly politicised movements and alluded to the much larger picture of institutional and historical racism in the US. Both women are failed by the justice system to different extents and while they were fighting injustice in very different times and contexts, they shared a communal strength in this performance.
(Woke - Apphia Campbell)
Apphia Campbell is a theatremaker to be taken very seriously as this and her other sell-out show, Black is the Colour of my Voice, have stunned Fringe audiences, and many others over the past couple of years. She demonstrated fantastic character development and definition, notably in the way that the young, naïve inquisitiveness of the university student in the 2014 timeline was steadily worn away as she became more exposed to the realities of black lives in her new community. I, and many others, were brought to tears in the harrowing final moments of the performance, in which the description of a peaceful gathering turning into a protest riot was so vividly narrated.
"Apphia Campbell demonstrated fantastic character development and definition."
This production is a necessary affirmation of the rawness and tragedy behind news headlines to which some international readers can become far too desensitised. There is always a place for theatre like this; theatre that teaches us that illegal and wrong are not synonymous, that there is always something to fight for, and that, in the words of Shakur, ‘We are created by our condition and shaped by our oppression.’