The first 15 minutes are atmospheric: beautiful music accompanying a dimly lit stage slowly filling with fog. Mele Broomes takes to the stage, barely visible but entrancing all the same. The vocalising that kicks in as Broomes becomes fully illuminated, standing alone on stage, is just as gorgeous as the music that had preceded. I want to close my eyes and drift away to the sound of the enhanced chorus.
But if I am to do that, I will have miss the physicality of the piece that follows. There is such entrancement in the way Broomes moves. Kitted out in a series of beautiful costumes (hats off to Sabrina Henry’s designs), Broomes is an absolute vision. The whole piece is visually mesmerising. Through the entirety of her performance, Broomes is of the earth, yet ethereal; present within time, yet transcending time.
Hearing the voices of Black womxn (the term specifically used by Broomes in the show blurb and on her website) as a Black womxn performs is a true moment of warmth for my soul. I feel intrinsically connected to Broomes and her piece through the ancestral threads that comprise the show. As the voices talk about Blackness and the expectations and complications that come alongside existing as a Black femme in the world, I find myself nodding in agreement to almost everything that is said. The voices maintain their individuality but speak to a larger, common experience of our existence. This moment of verbatim theatre doesn’t last very long but manages to span a lifetime: a complex, full life of love, pain, rejection, acceptance and support.
Her choreography, too, speaks to me, although I am no longer an trained dancer. I have long since forgotten the technical terms of choreography; have left behind my knowledge of how first position differs from second. But Broomes’ movement is still accessible. A combination of what is clearly highly studied and well-informed technique, and what feels like movement of the soul. Broomes’ choreography serves to add well-received texture to the story she tells so well.
Broomes’ website defines her art as telling “stories from the collective voice, creating visceral and sensory collaborations through her ancestral heritage. Activating social questions, remembering and celebrating.” Wrapped Up In This is a perfect example of her work. A celebration of her connection to Black womxn before the performer; a question as to who she will become and how she will honour her ancestors. It is triumphant and reverential, and poignant all in the space of 45 minutes.
It is beauty.
Wrapped Up In This streamed online as part of the Take Me Somewhere festival, running until 5 June. For more information, see Take Me Somewhere festival online.