Aug 24 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Mesmerising

Young Critics Scheme review
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14): Tue 13 – Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Suzanne O’Brien

Returning to the fringe for just six performances at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, Apphia Campbell’s Woke is a powerful one woman show that tells the story of two women 42 years apart.

Campbell gives an utterly compelling performance as she easily morphs between characters. Her emotional portrayal is utterly captivating and really forces you to understand the brutality and reality of each situation.

Apphia Campbell in Woke

Based on true stories and historical events, the play follows a Seventies social activist and former member of the Black liberation army, Assata Shakur. The story of Shakur being convicted of first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout in 1973 is interwoven with a story of a young – somewhat naive – black student, Ambrosia.

Written by Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough, the play doesn’t shy away from the honest and harsh truth of black inequality in American history and present day.

As Ambrosia, Campbell creates a young fun-loving character who has a positive and hopeful outlook. However when she goes to study music in St Louis in 2014 – just after Michael Brown was shot by a policeman in Ferguson – she gets influenced into going to a protest. This results in her being accused and charged with illegal activities. The injustices in the law soon becomes evident as her charges build up just as quickly as her morale decreases.

Although their stories are very different the issues they both face have the same root, conveying the lack of change in forty years. It really emphasizes how slow the process has been and continues to be for equality in regards to race, begging the questions – “How much has really changed?” And “How much is still to be done?”.

powerful performance

The songs – all beautifully incorporated into the piece – include blues and anthems of protest made famous by Bessie Smith. Showing the progression in the story and how the anthems are still relevant today despite being written so long ago.

The simplicity of the production allows for complete focus to be on the story. Simple lighting changes are made throughout the piece which highlight a change of character or to further emphasise the importance of a particular song or speech. This, mixed with stunning vocals, makes for a powerful performance that avoids over doing it and lets the words speak for themselves.

This incredibly raw play proves that the struggle, pain and suffering caused by the fight for black civil rights is not just a thing of the past. The issue of inequality is still ever-present in society today.

Apphia Campbell’s performance is truly stunning in this captivating and eye-opening piece of theatre.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Tuesday 13 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Tue 13, Fri 16, Sun 18, Tue 20, Fri 23, and Sun 25: 4pm
(Playing in rotation with Black is the Colour of My Voice)
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/woke

Website: www.apphiacampbell.com/
Twitter: @apphiacampbell
Facebook: @ApphiaCampbell


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