Writer: Rachael Young
Sound Design: Mwen and Leisha Thomas
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Juxtaposing a celebration of Grace Jones’ landmark album, Nightclubbing, in 1981 with three young black women refused entry to Dstrkt nightclub in 2015, Nightclubbing is equal parts gig theatre, spoken word and performance art. Encased in Naomi Kuyck-Cohen’s Afrofuturistic set and costume design and Mwen and Leisha Thomas’ pulsing beats, Rachael Young’s new show will take you on a wild and wonderful ride through the cosmos.
Engaging from the start, Young emerges as if from a chrysalis. Like a sparkling superheroine or circus performer, she dons her other-worldly attire and addresses the audience through a microphone. She offers a slow raft of apologies – for being black, for talking too loudly, for taking up space – that gather speed as she adds to her list. This contrition is looped, echoing and reverberating in a way that is both uncomfortable and striking.
This performance is punctuated by audio interviews with women about the 2015 incident, excluded as they didn’t conform to someone else’s criteria for beauty. Young speaks of Jones’ story in slivers, just enough to convey the journey without getting lost in narrative, driving home the importance of a strong, androgynous black woman being hyper-visible and smashing societal norms.
The soundscape is exceptional, and many would happily pay to sit in a room and listen just to those beats. The exploration of worth and of visibility that the totality of Nightclubbing evokes, however, is vital – as is identifying and calling out others’ microaggressions and subtle bigotry. At times it feels ominous, but ultimately leaves you with hope that the superhumans are among us, and the revolution near at hand.
Runs until 11 August 2019 | Image: Marcus Hessenberg