Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Portrait, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Billy Barrett.
A politically switched-on teenager. A bridesmaid who can’t fit into her dress. A woman who has emigrated from Ghana only to shiver in Britain’s “Arctic” conditions and discover that Big Ben isn’t all that big. Racheal Ofori’s compellingly astute solo show paints a series of interlinked portraits of very different black women, as the performer explores the gulf between cultural stereotypes and personal identities, and the intersection of racism and sexism on people’s lived experiences.
Ofori’s monologue oscillates fluidly between casually direct and poetic registers, occasionally lifting into full-blown spoken word, which gives the piece a beautifully rich texture and rhythmic depth. It’s performed with such generosity and humour that it never feels didactic, yet Ofori unflinchingly confronts urgent issues such as the social barriers that can prevent black people from accessing higher education, satirising the well-meaning white saviour schoolteacher and condemning the curriculum’s implication that black history begins with chattel slavery.
Teenage Candice is the most fully fleshed character of the cast, and it’s through her sharply observational eyes that we perceive each of the other women, and the political landscape they’re navigating in the UK and America – captured in a voice that’s critical yet fearless, and ultimately uplifting.
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) until 29 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 12 August 2015
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