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The Theatreguide.London Review

Queens Of Sheba
The Vaults  February 2019

The black woman alone on the stage as the show opens looks anxiously at herself in the mirror. She is clearly dissatisfied with what she sees of her arms, her legs, her face. Suddenly she is interrupted by three other black women dancing towards her as they sing 'Just a Little Bit of Respect.'

Inspired by accounts of a night club turning away four black women for 'being too black', Queens of Sheba is a fast-moving linked series of sketches that give us a good number of reasons why a black woman might not feel entirely at ease with the world. And they do so imaginatively, with a good deal of wit.

We get the workplace where she hears the odd comments and questions about hair, about where she comes from and whether she can twerp. She learns to 'smile and nod', to 'switch off my intellect to switch on theirs' and to try not to appear 'too aggressive or too passive'.

Being told on a first date with a white man 'I only date exotic women.' she wonders which continent that would be. And again asked where she comes from the answer is always the same. 'I say I am a mix of both racism and sexism – they lay equally on my skin. Passed down unknowingly by my next of kin'.

As for black males they are shown in a club using the most ridiculous pick-up lines. They are hilarious as long as you don't have to suffer them, for these women say 'Your sexism hurts -Blackman.'

They also claim that for a 'woman to be in love with hip-hop is to be in love with her oppressor.'

There is a conversational poetic rhythm to their stories, their words interspersed with the acapella singing by the four of brief lines from singers such as Aretha Franklin.

The show feels fresh, perceptive, incredibly funny and well choreographed. It was no wonder the packed audience rose to clap enthusiastically at the end.

Keith McKenna

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Review -   Queens Of Sheba - Vaults 2019