Gunshot Medley is a beautiful and poetic telling of a narrative that is far too often silenced. The history of black lives in America is explored by three slaves in limbo who, although dead, are unable to escape the violence against black lives that remains pervasive today. They are continually and inescapably burdened with cleaning and burying a racist past and present. After last weekend saw horrific acts of violence perpetrated by white supremacists in Charlottesville, it is even more gut wrenchingly relevant.
The playwright and director of the show is Dionna Michelle Daniel, and though Gunshot Medley is her international debut, her writing and direction are already wise and masterful. The violence and inhumanity of the treatment that black Americans have endured over centuries is magnified when juxtaposed with the spirit and energy of Daniel’s storytelling.
Though it is a story of struggle and perseverance, it refuses to ignore all the glowing creative achievements in black history that, though crucial to the fabric of American popular culture, often go unacknowledged. There are joyous celebrations of black music throughout; the ecstatic rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ is an inspired choice. It is the character of Alvis, bursting with energy and stubborn joy, who often delivers this music. He is played by Derek Jackson, who brings an electric energy to the role, moving from carefree melody to shattered devastation with seamless ability.
A constant presence on stage, Morgan Camper is the focal point of the play in her role as Betty. She delivers Daniel’s unpredictable and intelligent writing with such heart and stubborn grit that we are fully invested from the beginning. She injects the poetic monologues with power, giving a bold voice to a frequently silenced experience of black womanhood. Darius R Brooker’s performance as George has a subtlety and justified confidence to it, his monologues packing a punch.
Daniel herself plays the Yoruban Goddess Oya, reconnecting each character to their beginnings and their deaths through hauntingly beautiful song. Her voice, much like her writing, is unique and captivating.
It is fitting that the play is full of music, as the whole show has a perfect cadence to it, working as if it were a song itself. It is not only the best show I have seen at the fringe so far, but the most well-crafted, moving piece of art I have ever encountered. I left feeling shaken, humbled and inspired. Each perfected component of the play comes together to deliver a complete game changer. Go and see it while you can; to watch such formidable talent play out in such an intimate setting is an opportunity not to be missed.