Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Shuck ‘n’ Jive (Play Review) Shuck ‘n’ Jive (Play Review)
Shuck ‘n’ Jive (Play Review)

Why is there such an absence of Black representation in arts especially theatre?. Despite advances casting especially for major roles, typecasting and discrimination is still an everyday fact for Black actors in the UK.



How do you counteract this? Writing and staging your own production was the path chosen by two plucky young playwrights Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong and Simone Ibbett-Brown.



This semi-autobiographical ‘play within a play’ uses a mix of irony and fiction to not is not only talk about theatre and race but also, despite the sterling attempts to make the arts inclusive and diverse to reveal the insensitivity and unconscious bias displayed towards Black actors.


Made up a series of unconnected scenes and plotlines, we watch our two actors Olivia Onyehara (Simone) and Tanisha Spring (Cassi) perform of series of skits and parodies that ranged from a game show that award points to those that were able to put up with blatantly prejudiced micro-aggressive sentiments to spoken word text messages about racisim.


Other scenarios included a bizarre audition where Simone tries out for a part in a production of Porgy and Bess which ends up with her singing minstrel themed songs complete with waving white gloved hands.


Who can forget the cringe-worthy scene in a café where an extremely aggressive man sings racist themed songs in a phoney rap style. In between all of this, the actors also seemed to be having a great time with a series of water pistol battles.


There was also a lot of ‘studenty’ type chatter about the nature of racism, what it means to be ‘woke’, scripts lines and what types of racism is acceptable between friends.


However, lot of it was not insightful or perceptive, but rather seemed like a long college common room debate amongst friends, with long chaotic inconclusive conversations.


Added to that, there was an awkward chemistry between the two characters that made the whole production seemed strained resulting in some scenes being lacklustre and unconvincing.


Lakesha Arie-Angelo’s direction is action packed, with the actors in what seems like perpetual motion, darting from one end of the stage to thus allowing Ranya El Refaey’s sparse but creatively conceived brilliant white stage to be used to full effect.



Shuck ‘n’ Jive is a brave if somewhat confused attempt to bring the issue of institutional racism especially in the arts to the fore. Challenging the audience and society at large to hold necessary but uncomfortable conversations if the situation is to change for Black actors.


However a lot of this has been said and dissected in similar productions. Excellent and perceptive as the writing is, the end result is a little sloppy, adding little to the on-going conversation about racism in the arts that urgently has to be confronted.



Till 26 Oct, Shuck ‘n’ Jive, Soho Theatre, 7.30pm Tickets and details https://sohotheatre.com/shows/shuck-n-jive/

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