Athena Kugblenu @ Underbelly Bristo Square

Leading the way, rising star Athena Kugblenu delivers an honest and politically charged hour

Review by Polly Glynn | 06 Aug 2018
  • Athena Kugblenu

Athena Kugblenu wants to be a political leader, but she’s being held back. Held back by flawed politicians. Held back by institutionalised racism. Held back by past wrongs. It’s an exploration of the broken system we’re living in, but also the pressures we can put on ourselves needing to resist and pave the way for future generations. It’s about acceptance and owning up too; particularly admitting when you’ve spewed on a bus or flooded your neighbour’s flat.

She’s a passionate performer who doesn’t sugarcoat things (you think Obama was great, but he did drop bombs on more countries than Bush). Her naturalistic delivery and rightful anger about current affairs can feel intimidating, but it effectively hammer points home. However, punchlines often lose momentum as Kugblenu’s confidence seems to fizzle in front of the small audience. This makes for an unbalanced hour: calling the room into battle one minute, and shyly staring at her feet the next. It must also be difficult doing a show about race to a room teeming with white privilege and having to change the show’s tone from identification to education in a heartbeat. It’s a challenging hour, but not a polished one. But that’s the point: nobody’s perfect.

Athena Kugblenu: Follow the Leader, Underbelly Bristo Square (Clover), until 26 Aug (not 13), 5.30pm, £6.50-11

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