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The Theatreguide.London Review

Chiaroscuro
Bush Theatre     Autumn 2019

The Bush Theatre's new Artistic Director Lynette Linton begins her tenure with a revival of Jackie Kay's 1986 drama of tradition, identity and – as the title suggests – black and white, both of skin and of thinking.

Four women of colour open the play by introducing themselves, giving the history of their names and thereby showing that they are deeply rooted in tradition and racial and family history.

In the course of the play two become lovers, a third surprises them and herself with the vehemence of her disgust at the 'unnatural' union, and the fourth tries desperately to maintain peace.

Each of the four has hidden secrets and emotional scars, and the discovery of the play is that all the good will, friendship, sisterhood, feminism and racial identity they possess is not enough to vanquish their person demons.

A happy ending can't help feeling forced on the play whose natural stopping point is the rueful acknowledgement by all four that their personal journeys have some distance yet to go.

The play is filled with music, and all four performers – Shiloh Coke, Preeya Kalidas, Anoushka Lucas and Gloria Onitiri – have roots in both music and theatre, and ably sing and accompany themselves as well as exploring the depths of their characters' emotions.

There is, however, an air of preaching to the choir in the play – that is, it speaks directly to women, women of colour, women drawn to women, and women seeking their identity as women.

Without question it is those members of the audience for whom the play will resonate most fully, while the rest may find themselves looking in from an excluded outside.

That reluctance – or perhaps conscious refusal – of the play to reach beyond those already inclined to be drawn into it means that those In and those Out will have very different experiences.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Chiaroscuro - Bush Theatre 2019