Pros: The production values are excellent in every respect.
Cons: Not suitable for audiences in search of easy entertainment.
There is something intimate and profound about Gunshot Medley that stays with you long after you’ve left Venue 13 in Edinburgh. This must have to do with the sweet whispers of the High Priestess (impersonated by playwright and director Dionna Michelle Daniel) or with the piercing eyes and husky voice of the slave Betty (Morgan Camper). Standing in the middle of a field covered in wood chippings, Betty wears the typical dress of the slaves in the tobacco plantations and she’s singing traditional Appalachian songs, like Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms, whilst she receives the visit of two other slaves.
The playful Alvin (Derek Jackson) shows her how to dance Hip Hop and brings her modern objects – an automatic gun and a Skittles wrapping – asking her to clean them. But when she touches them she appears horrified and urges him to go and bury them.
The militant George (Darius R. Booker) evokes the different civil rights activists that marked the history of African American people, like Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers. He appears on stage wearing a leather jacket, a black beret and dark sunglasses, or with the smart clothes of a preacher, and tells Betty about the whispers of the wind that guide him.
After each of these visits, and responding to a resounding blast, Betty drops to her knees, frantically trying to wipe the floor with a cloth, in a room flooded with a dense red glow. These blasts are the gunshot medley of all the black lives lost to civil rights inequality after the the abolition of slavery in 1865.
The sense of melancholy I took home with me came, in particular, from the deep feeling for these three African-American slaves, who gave their lives for the benefit of future generations and whose sacrifice now feels wasted.
Ghostly echoed by Sam Sewell’s live soundscape, Gunshot Medley is enriched with elegant poetry, heart-breaking songs and resounding performances. In a world numbed by politically informed news reports, its simple and painful truth took me by surprise and, if I had a chance, I’d go to watch it again, to fully appreciate all the nuances of this unmissable production.
Written and Directed By: Dionna Michelle Daniel
Producer: CalArts Festival Theater
Box Office: 07074 201 313
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/gunshot-medley
Booking Until: 26 August 2017