Saturday, December 2

Through the Mud – Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh


The first word to come out of my lips after this exceptional performance.

From the creators of ‘Black is the colour of my voice’, comes a powerful new story about the experiences of two African American women separated by 42 years, but suffering the same racial discrimination living as citizens in the, supposed, Land of the Free.

Written and performed by Apphia Campbell and co-produced by Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Stellar Quines, Through The Mud is a re conceived version of Woke, the one-woman play which won Campbell a Scotsman Fringe First Award in 2017.

Although I never saw Woke, changing this from a one-woman to a two-woman play looks to have been a very inspired idea indeed. Alongside the seasoned Campbell, is the excellent Tinashe Warikandwa playing the character Ambrosia, a young and naïve student, enrolling just as the Ferguson riots begin following the killing of Mike Brown, which lead to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. Against the turmoil of this time, Ambrosia branded an Oreo by her fellow students, for being, ‘black on the outside, but white on the inside’, must decide whether she will stand with the rioters or run.

Playing alternate scenes, Campbell meanwhile plays Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther movement from the 1970-80s, who along with many of her fellow comrades finds herself persecuted, harassed and ultimately wrongly imprisoned for the death of a state trouper. In a surprising turn of events Assata somehow escapes from prison and flees to Cuba, where she still lives to the present day.

Against a powerful soundtrack of blues and gospel as well as original compositions all sung live, the twin voices of Campbell and Warikandwa are powerful and harmonious. Video projection over the full size of the back cloth is perfectly integrated and lighting is particularly well conceived to suit the mood and time. Combined together it is a heady and emotional mix.

It is not easy to make great theatre. It requires a great story, a creative structure and script to carry the story and talented and committed actors and it requires great sound and lighting and other tech, oh and a great venue!

This play, supported by the Lyceum Theatre, ticks every box. It deserves to tour extensively and be seen by many. It’s a rare and important thing, which makes you look and think then look again. The tear-stained emotion of the audience as they rise as one to cheer the performers at the end of this looks like it genuinely surprises the actors. It shouldn’t, they have just created something extraordinary.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 3rd November 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.