Pros: Apphia’s mellow storytelling and powerful singing are a perfect combination.
Cons: Some background knowledge of African-American history is beneficial.
Opening with a live cover of the popular jazz song St. Louis Blues, Woke moves the audience with a tale of two lives which run 42 years apart and are interwoven into a powerful solo show by Apphia Campbell.
In 1971, New York-born Joanne Chesimard, rejects her “slave name” and becomes Assata Olugbala Shakur. As a member of the Black Liberation Army, she’s involved in the African-American nationalist guerrilla and, before being convicted in 1977, she is the most wanted woman in the United States. Freed two years later by other activists, she then flees to Cuba, where she’s immediately granted political asylum and lives to this day.
In 2014, Ambrosia is just about to start attending university in St. Louis, when 18-year-old Michael Brown is shot dead by police in Ferguson, a northern suburb of the same city. Raised by her father to believe that black and white people are equal in front of the law, when the first protests break out in the surroundings of her campus, Ambrosia is suddenly faced by a different reality. Attending one of these rallies – more as a curious onlooker than as a militant – she’s unfairly given a ticket by a police officer, which eventually escalates into thousands of dollars’ charge.
Two African-American women, an historical and a fictional character, pressed to choose between hiding or fighting against a social mindset where many injustices remain unchallenged for fear of repercussions.
Campbell’s charismatic performance is overwhelming. On a set throbbing with red hues of rage, tears fill her eyes as she recalls the riots caused by the announcement that Michael Brown’s killer had been discharged. When the conversation becomes more intimate, a blue floodlight pervades the stage and she reads a page from Shakur’s own writings. Her broken voice, her genuine feelings, her true sense of disbelief and the anecdotes that resound painfully with the recent events of Charlottesville make many in the audience visibly weep…I was one of them.
Written By: Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough
Director: Caitlin Skinner
Producer: Play the Spotlight Theatre & Made In Scotland
Box Office: 0131 622 6552
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/woke
Booking Until: 28 August 2017