I Am (Not) Kanye West is part of the POWER x RESISTANCE season currently playing this week at Bunker Theatre, billed as “exploring power within theatre, society and ourselves”. And the performance ticks all those boxes, big time!
Tash is black, female and queer, from a working-class background. She’s made her parents proud having made the grade to get to university. She looks forward to the learning this will afford her, but more so, she’s dead excited at the prospect of full and complete acceptance, which she badly craves. Complete acceptance; the total sum of her parts. Unexpectedly and disappointingly she grinds up against ‘identity politics’ and finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place.
Natasha Brown successfully entertains us with humour and pathos, diligently enthusing us to love and celebrate each element of her make-up. Initially we meet her in a black hair salon, then negotiating love and relationships (how could she be attracted to a woman who uses the ‘n’ word?). But it’s vis-à-vis entering the realm of student politics that she’s asked to dislocate from who she is; to subtract a part of herself in appealing first to one group and then the other to secure votes. Finally she throws up her hands in despair. It’s a poignant work.
This piece is a monologue, and though the better part of the performance is Tash speaking she also plays a few other roles. Unfortunately, the transition from playing first one character, then back to Tash and returning again doesn’t always work. It’s not always clear who is speaking, which is unfortunate because it’s a shining play and Natasha Brown is a delight on stage.
Two curtain raisers before the main show are really worthy of mention as well. Michelle Tiwo walks on stating “Anger is black. Red’s taken by murder” and, with a wonderful lyricism, rhythm and a very strong presence, struts the stage telling the story of black deaths on the street of London. Tiwo is mesmerising and grips you in the tragedy of loss and despair. By the close of her performance you truly comprehend the breadth of how little is understood by society at large. She successfully communicates the extent of abandonment and lack of understanding that’s in the community at large, telling us that even the Mayor doesn’t understand it all, he just wants to get knives off the street without fully appreciating the cultural background to the problem.
Sanaa Byfield’s tale is set in the USA, and presents a mother imploring another black woman for her child who has been taken away thanks to the prattling of a white neighbour who thought she was the nanny.
There’ll be different curtain raisers each night alongside I am (not) Kanye West and I have no doubt Sculptress Theatre are showcasing pertinent stories and exciting performers.