Pros: Thompson is excellent at enlightening and sympathizing, and soars at storytelling.
Cons: The piece is in many ways a work in progress.
Dark and Lovely is the brainchild of the extremely charismatic and personable Selina Thompson. Thompson has created a one-woman piece of theatre that allows her to share a mixture of anecdotes and spoken word poetry in order to evaluate and share her journey of understanding the significance that hair and its associations have to black women in modern Britain. She focuses on exploring the identity of afro hair: how it has been shaped throughout the ages and societal connotations. Thompson looks at the historical associations of afro hair, gives a scientific analysis, and relates how hair plays a major role in the ideas of community, family and being black and female in British society.
Her show is very much a work in progress and you get the idea that it grows and develops further with each subsequent show she does— each show brings new audiences to the table to exclaim, react and share in her awareness and knowledge. There are heartwarming stories on show, there’s heart-wrenching information presented and stories of previous audience interactions are often the catalysts for valuable and interesting points and conclusions.
Thompson herself is extremely likeable. She’s friendly, articulate, confident and has a strong talent for storytelling. Her show takes place in and around what she wonderfully refers to as a ‘tumbleweave’ – a wire igloo of sorts that is covered in various colours and textures of weaves. Windows and doors allow the audience to travel into the weave to experience part of the performance or simply observe from outside. The performance is anything but static; Thompson guides and moves people around the tumbleweave in stages. It’s a clever way to divide up the portions of the story and interject some space between stories, poems and subjects. There’s a lot of standing here, of which you are forewarned, but there are seats available for those who need them and Thompson does well to make sure people are settled and they can see and participate when needed.
As previously mentioned, I do feel this show is part of a process of understanding and learning and, as such, I’m not sure Thompson has answered all her own questions yet. This is fine, as it’s nice that this show feels like a journey and not a destination. What she does do extremely well is paint a sense of beauty for the audience. She has a tremendous way with words and her spoken elements have a richness and depth to them that inspire an awed silence from an audience that’s hanging on to every word. The conclusion to her show is simply beautiful, and also surprisingly peaceful. If Thompson’s frustrations, appreciations and experiments with hair and community are a tumultuous sea, the conclusion is floating in calm, cool water – and it’s lovely.
Thompson has much to say and her style of delivery is exceptional: she’s warm, bubbly, friendly and a very strong female voice. I have a feeling that this piece of theatre is only going to get better and better with time.
Author: Selina Thompson
Producer: Emma Beverley
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.