Sunday, July 21

Black Is The Color Of My Voice – HOME Mcr

Apphia Campbell’s play, inspired by the life of Nina Simone, has won critical acclaim and sold-out venues around the world. It is not hard to see why. Black Is The Color Of My Voice is about as accomplished a one-person show as you are ever likely to see.

Confined to one sparsely decorated room, jazz singer Eugenia vows to ditch the booze and the cigarettes as she tries to connect with the spirit of her late father. Campbell’s character clutches a framed picture of ‘daddy’ as she reflects on her life, loves and losses.

Artefacts and articles of clothing pulled from a suitcase trigger memories. Memories that are beautifully and believably portrayed to a spellbound audience. Memories punctuated by stunning interpretations of Nina Simone classics.

Within the first few beats of the first song, it is clear we are in very safe hands. Campbell can really sing and really perform and is in no way overwhelmed by the challenge of tackling these iconic numbers.

What makes the music in this show so special is that these are not just performances to break up the narrative. They are totally and utterly embedded in the direction of the drama. Every song exists purely to serve the storytelling.

As Eugenia recalls her journey from gospel-soundtracked upbringing to success with ‘the devil’s music’, Campbell switches imperceptibly from playing a carefree child to channelling a troubled and thoughtful adult.

It is a credit to her effortless acting style and physicality that she can play so many stages of one character’s life, and other characters too, in such a lucid and truthful way.

The story does not pull its punches. Much like Eugenia’s abusive and controlling husband Arthur. As a precocious young pianist, our star shouts into the audience to stop her mother and father from being removed from a recital audience because of the colour of their skin.

The incident serves to explain Eugenia’s departure from her parents’ passive and weary acceptance of the daily racism they face. Instead, anger and justifiable impatience pushes her on a path to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

One sequence of shocking news reels of the period is particularly well realised, combining brilliant lighting and sound effects. In fact, the staging throughout is varied and clever.

During the instantaneous standing ovation, it becomes clear the journey Campbell has to take each night is a gruelling one. It is well worth it because this is nothing short of faultless. 

Reviewer: Peter Ruddick

Reviewed: 26th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.