Half Breed is for anyone that has ever felt ‘other’. It’s exhausting, breakneck and revitalising; a show and a performer that don’t stop for breath until the message has completely reached its audience. Sometimes the smallest spaces and the most minimal of props produce the most exciting and important of works and that is certainly true here. Are you an actor just not getting the auditions or sick of been tirelessly stereotyped? By your gender? Ethnicity? Skin colour? Sexuality? Natasha Marshall feels for you.
‘One-woman show’ definitely does not do the sheer amount of effort Marshall has put into Half Breed any justice. Inspired by her experiences growing up mixed-race in the West Country, this is a show dominated by feelings of frustration and isolation and just really believing that there’s something more. Because there has to be, right? First performed in Edinburgh last year and subsequently premiering at the Soho theatre in September, this is co-produced by Talawa Theatre Company who has launched such shows as the Royal Exchange and Birmingham Rep’s King Lear and Theresa Ikoko’s Girls. The company have a history of supporting work that thankfully have turned expectations on their head, as well as speaking necessary truths.
Much of Half Breed is spoken word with Marshall playing at least three characters and flitting between each firmly and effortlessly. I imagine it’s far from easy to change physicality, voice and manner so damn quickly but Marshall does so with extraordinary skill. It’s knackering and it’s impressive to watch.
Now, more than ever there’s much theatre that has been created by actors themselves because they’re not only not getting into ‘the room’ but because, as a minority they want control over their own narrative. It’s imperative that this continues on and on and on. Half Breed may have been created because Marshall was frustrated by the lack of diverse roles for black females but it and she inhabit so much more than this. As she shouts to the audience:
“Half Breed, Half cast, nigger, Paki, Chinky, puff, queer, bent, faggot, gayyyyy boyyyyy, you slut, slag, whore, spastic, retard, pikey, gyppo, inbred, immigrant, SCUM!”
You get the sense she represents everybody who has ever been told they’re a freak, abnormal or not mainstream enough. There’s the occasional moment that Marshall’s quick fire inhabiting of other characters than her own (protagonist, Jazz is based heavily on her) feels relentless and overwhelming to watch but ultimately, Half Breed is vastly impressive and momentously necessary. THANK GOD many of us are strong enough to tell stories as they should always have been heard and thank god there are people like Marshall inspiring us.
Half Breed played at the Soho theatre until April 21
Photo: Soho Theatre