Review: ★★★★ White, Ovalhouse

Koko Brown blends her own experiences with those that everyone who has felt like the ‘other’ can understand in her first full length play. This show is described as being a mixture of spoken word and music, but what the description doesn’t tell you is that all of the music comes from Koko Brown herself. The set consists of two microphones with recording equipment set up on either side of the stage, which she uses to create fully fledged tracks right before your eyes. Her singing voice is amazing, and when combined with her ability to create the percussion for the songs and the beautiful harmonies that she weaves by layering over her own melodies, it’s hard to believe that none of the songs are pre-recorded.

The set is simple, which emphasises how much Koko Brown owns the stage, she uses the entire space, engaging the audience without the need of any props or backdrop. The lighting is dramatic, shifting with the tone of the pieces, sometimes soft and sometimes harsh, with blackouts creating distinctions between the experiences that she describes.

The show balances comedy and light-hearted anecdotes with the very real issues that still show through when we talk about race. She starts with an optimistic version of how she sees herself, which gets gradually more conflicted as she shows how society and her experiences have affected her identity. Repeated musical and lyrical themes track through her changing perception of identity while the variety of musical techniques and subject matter keep the audience engaged. Covering topics ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to the everyday aggressions that a mixed-race person faces on the street, Koko Brown explores how our view of race has shaped how we see ourselves.

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Emma Grimsley
Emma Grimsley

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