Canada Water Culture Space has been open for a while now, but the billing of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf has probably been the most well-known – and most risky – production for the new space. The crowd are super excited, and even I am a little buzzed to how it is going to pan out.
If you are not familiar with Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls, it follows seven ladies represented by the colours of the rainbow as they go about their lives in different states of America. The first example of the “choreopoem”, it is one of the most celebrated pieces in African-American and feminist literature.
This staging of the piece has also broken down some doors; this production, directed by Justina Kehinde, was the first all-black, all-female production ever staged at Cambridge. While it does have a few bumps, overall For Colored Girls is incredibly slick for a debut production. You can clearly see just how much passion there is for Shange’s play with this cast. The fact that the cast is also made up of young black women also gives the production the extra push it needs to go from a play to an actual look into their lives. This makes the production almost voyeuristic in some ways; the performances on stage are incredibly raw at times. Kehinde, who plays Lady In Blue while directing and co-producing the production, is a great example of how some of the poems are hard to watch. If the poem ‘Abortion Cycle #1’ does not bring a tear to your eye, you must have a heart of stone.
But all the girls play their part with that same raw emotion that Kehinde has. There is not one weak link in the cast, and when they come on stage together it is electric. Naomi Maxwell has some great moments on stage, while Stephanie Goulei provides a much needed relief in the mostly heavy poems.
One part of the play that felt a little off was the idea of mixing poetry with dance. Of course it comes down to personal opinion, but the idea of adding movement to spoken word that would have been more emotional being still puts you off a little bit. It felt like the poems that had the movement in were ones that just went over the crowd.
For Colored Girls is a very emotional set of poems just on paper, but this production brings it all to life. If this is how debuts are being performed these days, theatre has some very exciting times ahead.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf played on 13 September.