Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Josette Bushall-Mingo, Shapor Bastansiar, Shaney Forbes, Jair–Rohm Parker Wells.
Political thought requires The Arts to remind it of just what it is fighting for on occasion, the rest of the time Art is there to take on the degraded and the foolish who seek power without representation, who make those who seek to undermine a person by the colour of their skin, their age, race, gender, sexuality or their perceived ability to do a job, Art must strive to admonish, rebuke and sternly warn by any means possible but it also must hold the hand, caress the soul and give comfort that whilst the holders of such ideas are wrong, they at least can be changed.
Josette Bushall-Mingo’s entrancing performance in her own concept of Nina: A Story About Me And Nina Simone is the point where political debate and Art cross over and it is with that flourish, that snap of the fingers and soulful twist of beautifully haunting voice in which the audience is reminded of the struggle that millions of black people in the United States have had in finding a voice that could make people stop and listen through the power of Art.
Nina Simone was not the first and she won’t be the last, she might not even be the best remembered of the 20th Century, the rhetoric and passion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., cut down in his prime perhaps will always have more people remembering the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in a certain way, however Nina Simone undoubtedly is the personification of the change brought about by song, actions and music. That music stands out in the same way as Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech in Washington or Malcolm X’s Plymouth Rock sermon; the reason perhaps is simple, music and art resonate in a different way, people remember a song that touches them differently to how a great leader of people’s oration can affect their habits and ways of thinking.
For Josette Bushall-Mingo and the exquisite band, Shapor Bastansiar, Shaney Forbes and Jair–Rohm Parker Wells, Nina Simone is that personification of the memory of the struggle to be seen as equal and it is one that in Nina: A Story About Me And Nina Simone that truly captures the essence of the performance, the fundamental nature of the struggle and the sheer class that Ms. Bushall-Mingo as the fan, the woman and the performer brings to the Unity Theatre stage.
Under the direction of Dritëro Kasapi and Rio Matchett, this story is an earthquake waiting to strike, one that leaves hearts devastated and alive, pounding with pleasure, broken by the sheer force of will that comes through every nuance of the story and the music that accompanies it.
A fantastic piece of theatre, Nina: A Story About Me And Nina Simone, one which has to be cared for and cherished in equal measure.
Ian D. Hall