Bath Voice Reviews
Theatre review: Josephine, Egg Theatre, Bath
There was something missing in this lively and enjoyable play about the larger than life performer Josephine Baker: her singing and dancing. It needed a big finish and some set pieces to illustrate her ability to entertain.
Sparkling Ebony Feare as Josephine, had the personality, the charisma, movement and the voice but was never given the chance to put the wow into Leona Allen’s play Josephine which only hinted at her abilities. Sadi Masego as Marie and Daniel Kofi Wealthyland provided stylish, slick and speedy support as the bickering owners of the café left to their father and Josphine’s son as they recreated Joephine’s life story.
Leona Allen’s script was inventive and perhaps almost overflowing with dates and descriptions of the many lives of Josephine from impoverished Missouri maid to USA human rights champion. At times it was almost too much to take in but the high-octane nature of the drama was in part there to symbolise Josephine’s life in the fast lane.
Aimed at school children the pace and complexity of the narrative is perhaps too much for very younger children but older ones and teens lapped up the irreverence and the sheer energy of the performers. And as a project for schools it’s a story that has almost everything for Black History Month – Nazis, racists, heroics, class divide and an uncompromising talent that refused to accept the racial segregation of the time.
Ebony Feare was superbly animated as she flipped through the rags to riches life of the American born but adopted Parisian singer, dancer and French resistance operative. Sadi Masego’s expressions and movement were also a joy to watch as was Daniel who worked seamlessly as the joint café owners who brought Josephine to life as her ghost disputed how she was being remembered.
The real life of Baker with her unreliable history and disputed facts, her complex love lives and numerous children and controlling personality were covered only in part. Well, there is so much to cover in a blurred life that began in poverty in America and moved to France and triumph at the Folies Bergère and to become synonymous with the Roaring Twenties and later wartime subterfuge.
Jesse Briton’s direction was perhaps too frenetic with the show zipping through to its conclusion in just 50 minutes. With a superbly designed set by Debbie Dru, evocative lighting by George Seal and appropriate music and sound by Holm Theatre’s production team this is a show that fell slightly short of its potential. Neat touches such as the bell to mark different years, the café’s furniture and various cardboard boxes piled up with props and the central red curtained entry door all created a memorable set.
So much that was excellent, and the essence of Josephine’s story was certainly conveyed, but I’m sure her ghost would have preferred a lot more singing and dancing to do her unique talents justice.
The show runs to November 8th, 2021, and continues on tour: 13/11 Falmouth University;
16/11 Theatr Brycheiniog; and 17/11 – 20/11 Wales Millennium Centre – Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru
The show is an The Egg, Wales Millennium Centre, and Oxford Playhouse’s co-production of Holm Theatre’s Josephine
To book a performance in your school and access to a term’s worth of learning via the Digital Learning Portal, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets and more information visit https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/blue-orange/
Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.
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