Review: Aisha (the black album), The Old Vic
5.0Overall Score

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Regina Taylor brings us a striking new monologue from a young black woman turning twenty-three and watching the world unfold into chaos. With widespread austerity building from the pandemic across America and white supremacist ideology on the rise, Taylor writes of a woman beginning her journey into a racist world.

Taylor speaks of a Grandmother teaching navigation to her granddaughter by tracing the North Star as runaway slaves would. We cannot pretend that racism began with the death of George Floyd, nor with the protests which would follow. Taylor tells a story of ancestral plight and how those battles for equality have only just begun for the current Black generation, passed down from those who fought before them.

Jade Anouka’s delivery is stunning as she recounts how a Grandmother’s stories, “seeped into my skin.” While racists sit romanticising a past that never existed but in false white memories, accounts of the brutality these Black ancestors faced still sting to this day. We are met with images of black women in their Sunday best, preparing to enter the voting booth with admiration for the rewards from the struggle. Taylor’s words are the image of a breaking back after carrying the weight of your ancestors’ battles. This even sparks a despondent attitude where one wonders if not voting, so as to not participate in a system built to oppress you, is better.

Trump’s presidency and the subsequent rise in powerful racists is terrifying and captured in Anouka’s desperate tone, “Seem centuries-long, these past four years.” Taylor uses the powerful analogy of ideological trees. Stumps in the ground give the illusion that the whole ecological system is dismantled, but with roots remaining the whole thing can gradually regrow. We must uproot systemic racism which requires dismantling the foundations of our society. Taylor’s writing is not only an anthem against racism; it is one against misogyny, austerity, and fascism. To overcome systemic racist violence is to build a better world for all of humanity.

As protesters stepped out onto the streets, risking exposure to the covid-19 virus, they knew they were left with no other choice. Taylor writes that racism in itself is a disease festering and infecting others. Anouka asserts, “Fuck Covid; I’m willing to die.” When we overcome the pandemic, we will be left with preventative measures against another monumental death toll. When will we look back do the same for racism?

The whole piece is musical in rhythm and writing but there’s more to just the undertones. Taylor writes sounds of Nina Simone and the spinning album of generational trauma. This monologue is a song for future generations who will not stand for any more racist violence. Taylor’s remarkable text is an anthem that tumbles down that one crushingly human desire, “To be free. To be free.”

Aisha (the black album) is available for streaming. For more information, see online.