A powerful coming of age story, Yvette tells the tale of a 13-year-old girl’s journey towards womanhood and the struggles experienced throughout the teenage years that we can all sympathise with. However, Urielle Klein-Mekongo’s story is more than the average coming of age story and it has a greater need for compassion as we experience Yvette’s traumatic circumstances.
Klein-Mekongo’s ability to share hard-hitting scenarios is beyond that of your everyday writer-performer; through the use of a loop pedal and captivating vocal technique (singing AND spoken word), she shares with us a deeper emotional connection than if we were just in the pub having a story over a pint. Instead, it feels like we are her diary and that this story is too difficult to share with anyone but us, the diary.
The multi-talented Urielle Klein-Mekongo also multi-rolls a wide scope of different characters and reminded me of similar figures in my own life: a sly uncle, an overprotective mother, a backstabbing best friend and a teenage crush. The ability for Klein-Mekongo to transform, for want of a better word, is uncanny and her vocal and physical characteristics shift between each. On top of this, her 13-year-old character sharing this story as if we are her diary is also presented at a believable distance from herself as a talented young creative.
Besides the use of the loop pedal as an alternative story telling method, the use of lighting and special awareness to reproduce post-traumatic stress, creates a clear visual impact as Yvette struggles with calming her state of suffering and return to sharing her deeply charged story. However, amongst these moments of exasperating shock, there is also some really intelligent and witty moments of relief such as the “having to discover certain things yourself cause you daren’t ask your parents” moments or the “giggly behaviour adopted to attract a crush”, which resonates with the half-full auditorium.
There are a few really nice impacting images and captions such as the ability to create a scenario with an abusive uncle. As you have only one woman on stage, Klein-Mekongo achieves this by having an uncle-like hat above herself while she slips her hand into a jacket hung on a coat stand to show the hand “of her uncle” caressing her hair and eventually forcing a kiss with “her own” hand holding herself. This is done with such vulnerability that it had me entirely convinced that it could easily be a scene with two people on stage and it let my imagination fill in all the blanks with no obstacles. The other really strong caption was right at the end, almost like an ending to a chapter of her diary, when Yvette stands downstage at the microphone and loop pedal and creates a beat using taps of the microphone and clicks of her finger. Then, despite the horror of the story that has just been shared, she gives her words of wisdom and empowerment, that she is going to forgive and not let it impede her but instead make her grow. “I am you” – this idea of not being alone and having the power to stand up for yourself really resonates and makes the show personal and on another level than your everyday West End spectacle. Instead it made me leave the auditorium thinking about the way I treat others and how I let them treat me, I really can say that this production has changed me and the way I care to be perceived.
Photo: Southbank Centre