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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Josephine And I
Bush Theatre Summer 2013

Cush Jumbo's self-written solo show is a salute to Josephine Baker, the American-born nightclub performer who was the toast of Paris for much of the first half of the Twentieth Century, achieving success and acceptance there that was denied her as a black woman in her own country.

As you might expect, Jumbo combines biography with brief snippets of song and dance in Baker's style. But she rises above formula by interleaving Baker's story with a lightly fictionalised version of her own experience as a young black performer today. 

The Baker biography is well told, and while one might wish for even more of Baker the performer, Jumbo does capture evocative glimpses into the diva's style, from the eccentric dancing of her early years through her more elegant later mode and her dignified position as something of an elder stateswoman of the mid-century Civil Rights movement. 

The parallels to Jumbo's own story may sometimes seem forced, though at their best they resonate powerfully, as when the two strong young black women's experiences of racism nearly a century apart show how very little the world – even the supposedly advanced show business world – has progressed. 

Smoothly directed by Phyllida Lloyd in a mode that allows Jumbo some improvisational leeway and makes even the scripted material look spontaneous, Jumbo is ably supported by Joseph Atkins at the piano, her presentation enriched by inventive background films and projections by Ravi Deepres.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Josephine And I - Bush Theatre 2013

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