How ‘This Is Black’ Festival confronts parental conflict in our community

This is Black is a festival celebrating the work of four emerging Black playwrights. It is running throughout August at the Bunker Theatre in London Bridge, an intimate venue that champions upcoming and “ambitious” artists. The four plays will run in paired double bills, with an exhibition on display every Sunday. 

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a training ground for upcoming artists, where they develop their voice, craft and reputations. However, artists such as those featured in This is Black festival can often find the Fringe quite inaccessible. Short on running time- but not on impact- This is Black was formed to create a “fringe-like experience” for Black artists. 

Double Bill 1 explored an uncomfortable subject- the sometimes precarious relationship with parents. 

All the Shit I Can’t Say To My Dad

It was a rehearsed reading rather than a fully realised production but I couldn’t tell the difference. The actor brought the playwright Abraham Adeyemi’s character to life with impressive realism. It follows the inner ramblings of AK, a songwriter turned debut artist struggling with the creative process of writing an album while reckoning with the strained relationship with his dad. AK is funny, cool, talented, honourable and struggling with becoming a man when the closest man to him didn’t always measure up. He is real and is so many men that we know and love. He shares with the audience his frustrations, his bruises, and his revelations and then runs to his notepad to record his ideas. Bit by bit he unravels the story of their relationship through his writing and you’re excited to see what the finished product will reveal. But can art like this be anything other than devastating?

Blue Beneath My Skin

The plays in this double bill seem to be two sides of the same coin. Written and played by Macadie Amoroso, Blue Beneath My Skin could have easily been called All The Shit I Can’t Say To My Mum. It’s a one-woman show exploring how society’s perceptions of someone can take on a life of their own and become destructive. Closely following a 17-year-old mixed-raced British girl, it’s the typical “caught between two worlds” narrative. However, the protagonist, an abandoned orphan adopted by a white family, isn’t immersed in the black world at all. Her differentiation is skin deep, in her tan skin and curly hair. Those markers are enough to set in motion the tragic chain of events in Blue. It’s a bit of a Shakespearean tragedy in that you can see how it’s all going to go wrong from the beginning but there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it [think Othello].

Blue Beneath My Skin is rough around the edges, energetic but still quite sweet. That sweetness comes from the main character’s innocence and borderline naivety, which stands in contrast to how the world chooses to see her- never beneath her skin.

The clever pairing of these two plays adds to the emotional impact of each one. Not knowing your birth mother and the source of your cultural heritage can leave you confused and vulnerable and without an understanding sounding board. Knowing your father but there being an emotional and cultural distance can leave you confused and vulnerable, with little space to heal your invisible wounds. This isn’t THE black experience. But it is A black experience that many can relate to and it’s so important that these stories found a stage to thrive.