Queens of Sheba @ Underbelly Cowgate

An arresting and relevant piece on the rise of Misogynoir and the experiences of young black women

Review by Deborah Klayman | 10 Aug 2018

Developed in the Starting Blocks scheme at Camden People’s Theatre, Queens of Sheba is an arresting piece that focusses on the rise of Misogynoir; the double-whammy of racism and sexism that black women are subjected to in their everyday lives.

Drawing on the Dstrkt nightclub incident, where women were turned away for being too dark-skinned, the four-strong cast share the experiences of black women through scenes, song and spoken word. Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku and Veronica Beatrice Lewis are all strong performers, showcasing their vocal talents and dancing abilities, interwoven with passionate prose.

Skilfully written by Jessica Hagan and adapted by Ryan Calais Cameron, the lyrical quality of much of the text juxtaposed with micro- and macro-aggressions against the characters is hard-hitting and emotive. There are plenty of laughs however; both in the interplay between the women and in their characterisations of those they meet, in particular Lewis’ hilarious sleazy male character (whose attention could not be less enticing). The four are at their best when all together, in the unison sections, in the silence they share, and in the musical renditions where each of the women shine.

Highlighting experiences of workplaces labelling them “too aggressive” and constant questions about “Where you’re from from?”, white dates describing them as “exotic” and trying to justify using the N-word, and oppression by black men and hip-hop music, the topics addressed in this piece are incredibly relevant and important to see reflected on stage. The final section is incredibly moving, as the women find solace and solidarity in their sisterhood, facing their next steps both together and head-on.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), 2-26 Aug (not 13), 6.50pm, £9-11 (Accessible show: 1.15pm, 15 Aug, Underbelly Bristo Square (Buttercup))

Scroll on to read more of The Skinny's 2018 Edinburgh Fringe theatre reviews; click here for a round-up of all the best reviews from this year's comedy and theatre programmes