Gilded Balloon Teviot,
Much progress has been made in improving the rights of African-Americans over the past 100 years but, as the unrest in Charlottesville this month has demonstrated, tensions and divisions still run deep. In Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough’s powerful new play, Woke, the African-American experience is explored through the lives of two women spanning 42 years.
In the present day, innocent young Ambrosia heads off to university, determined to heed her father’s advice to stay out of trouble, but finds herself dragged into a Kafkaesque nightmare of the criminal justice system because of her skin colour. It is set against the backdrop of the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer.
This alternates with the story of real-life activist, Assata Shakur, who, in the early 1970s, was involved with the Black Panthers and its offshoot, the Black Liberation Army. Based on her autobiography, it reveals how Assata became politicised before being convicted of “aiding and abetting” a murder and fleeing to Cuba to gain political asylum.
Both parts are brilliantly played by Apphia herself, portraying the two women discovering their African-American identity and embracing their role in fighting for change. It is given added power through music, with Apphia giving us beautiful renditions of blues, soul and gospel songs, including original compositions. While segregation and Jim Crow laws are in the past, Woke passionately alerts us to the ongoing struggle to overcome the historical flaws in American society over race that continue into the present day.
Running to August 28, 2017