Writer and Performer: Sylvia Arthur
Reviewer: Simon Topping
While Barack Obama is fulfilling his American Dream as the first black president of the United States, Sylvia Arthur, a young black British woman, is in Brussels in pursuit of her own European political dream. Tasked with promoting freedom of movement, she travels the continent advocating the benefits of a borderless union. But, just as the President faces opposition to his agenda, Arthur faces her own struggles.
Facing misogyny and racism at work, Arthur tells us of begrudging bosses and colleagues that cannot quite believe she is British because of the way she looks; just like a swathe of the American population could not accept their leader was actually born in Hawaii. Both are equally shocking, yet not surprising to hear.
She highlights several prejudices she has faced, including a particularly repellent encounter at Sofia airport in Bulgaria.
As Arthur becomes disillusioned in Europe she returns to her homeland of Ghana for emotional sustenance and strength, just as Obama sought out his Kenyan roots in his twenties. But, will she ever be seen as European in the comparable way Michelle Obama is American?
Despite some of her experiences and the world’s current shifting stance to right leaning politics, Arthur remains a positive force and urges us to embrace our freedom of movement while we can. She leaves us with a glimmer of hope. “This is the end of an era, but there is time to reverse the future; that is what the present is for.”
Simply presented (predominantly read rather than performed), Obama and Me is an interesting, intimate and touching memoir of a black woman working at the heart of European politics in the 21st century.
Runs 31 May and 1 June 2017 at The Warren Theatre Box | Image: Michael De Leon
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