Black Is The Colour of My Voice @ Pleasance at EICC

Apphia Campbell is a triumph in this powerful show that pays tribute to Nina Simone

Review by Georgia Mae Herriott | 09 Aug 2021
  • Black Is The Colour of My Voice @ Pleasance

Black Is The Colour of My Voice, loosely based on the life of music legend Nina Simone, opens in an intimate bedroom setting with Apphia Campbell’s stunning voice inviting the audience to the most intimate moments of her life. She addresses her father throughout the play inviting the audience to join her in a reminiscent journey of life, love and struggle. Campbell captivates the audience throughout with the songs of Simone, reflecting the mood of her memories and allowing us to become one with her innermost thoughts.

She moves through performances of gospel and hymns, reliving her childhood and imitating her mother perfectly and with warm affection. This provides welcomed humour to balance out the darker moments – including a reflection of love lost and abuse, accompanied by a rendition of Simone's Black Is the Color (Of My True Love's Hair). It's a truly heartbreaking moment: the stage lights dim and all background music fades, allowing Campbell’s excellence to shine through and offering the audience a glimpse into the fear and the pain she has suffered.

Campbell's culture and racial identity are at the forefront of the performance – she continually presents the glaring truths of what it means to be a Black woman. The use of radio and TV broadcasts of some of the most brutal moments in Black American history allows Campbell’s pain and anger to be realised as she relives those moments.

Campbell’s rendition of Simone's Mississippi Goddamn is coupled with her anger, and the performance starkly conveys the ways in which history has been repeating itself. The final scene of the show, however, is one of joy and hope. It reminds us that Simone’s life was filled with so much passion and meaningful impact. The closing sensational performance of Feeling Good allows us to leave the theatre with joy in our hearts and rebel songs on our lips; truly believing that we can make change, just like Nina. This show may be based on the life of Simone, but it ultimately thrives through Campbell’s talent.

Black Is The Colour of My Voice, Pleasance at EICC (Cromdale Theatre), until 15 Aug (not 11 or 13), various times, £13-15