WHITE

Using a combination of music and spoken word, Koko Brown brings her play about being mixed race to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, running at Beside in Pleasance Courtyard for the remainder of the month.

“I always knew what I was.” With an Irish mother and Jamaican father, she’s somewhere in the middle – potentially with the best of both worlds at her fingertips, but in reality it feels like she should “pick a side” (as long as she chooses the right one). Although how she sees herself may not be the same as other people’s perceptions – should she consider herself to be black, when that only represents one part of her? Growing up with her mother’s all white side of the family meant there were always feelings of being an outsider, even though she favoured “white music”, but it took coming across a Black Lives Matter march for her to re-evaluate how she felt about the ‘other side’ of herself.

Though this is a story that’s personal to her (and she makes sure she states that), there are so many elements of this show that are widely applicable. And not solely in terms of race, either. If you look at it as a play about someone trying to find their identity, having always been an outsider, this could easily be related to by anyone who’s experienced this feeling of not belonging – be it class, nationality, passions, gender… More of us understand this feeling than may be wiling to admit it.

At the same time, it is a show about race, and it’s an eye-opening experience for anyone sat in the audience; a chance for people from both ‘sides’ to see how she feels stuck in the middle, as well as something that perhaps other mixed race people can relate to.

The stage is set up with a pair of loop stations and microphones, which Koko Brown alternates between – layering up backing vocals before singing or speaking rhythmically over the harmonies. The fact that it’s all performed & brought together during the show, rather than having a pre-recorded backing track, gives it that extra boost of energy and dynamism. It’s reminiscent of Arinzé Kene’s Misty, with its themes of race & identity as well as its gig theatre style. From the moment the show starts there’s a friendly & informal atmosphere in the room, and Brown nurtures this closeness throughout the performance.

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WHITE
Photo credit: Jameela Elfaki

My verdict? A show about knowing (or not knowing) who you are, with a focus on growing up mixed race – Koko Brown is an engaging & captivating performer.

Rating: 5*


WHITE runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Beside) until 27 August 2018 (11.30am, 1 hour). Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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