When over a million people converge in one place for a single purpose, it’s always going to be a rich but controversial experience. Notting Hill Carnival for many is just a free party. Or the yearly ‘board- my- windows-and- flee- from- the- thugs’ days marked on the calendar. For others, it is culture, craft and competition. Personally, I don’t care at all about the food or the stationary sound systems that intersect the main parade route. I’m there for soca music and soca music only. I’m there to chip. That’s the walk/shuffle/waist twist combo you do when following the trucks.
This is what the Theatre 503’s new play J’Ouvert feels like. It’s constantly moving, with a non-stop thrumming soca soundtrack and a voluptuous, poetic script. It is an energetic exploration set over just one day of Notting Hill Carnival:
“In dazzling colour and endless sequins and feathers, Jade and Nadine are fighting for space in a world they thought was theirs. J’Ouvert is a hilarious and fearless story of two best friends, battling to preserve tradition in a society where women’s bodies are frequently under threat….Using the lens of a relatable friendship between two young women, J’Ouvert highlights just how much the personal can be political.”
Written by Yasmin Joseph, directed by Rebekah Murrell and brought to life by a team of black women and non-binary people, they transform a tiny theatre at the top of a pub into the weekend-long micro-city that Notting Hill becomes every August. The noise, the claustrophobia and the joy are all captured perfectly by just three shapeshifting actors and some intelligent staging. It’s laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish but weaves in the ‘woke’ so neatly. Through Jade and Nadine’s eyes, we explore culture, gender politics and injustices faced by Black Brits past and present. Still, they keep moving.
J’ouvert is an honest, fun, warm and witty story and the perfect warm-up for Carnival!
Get your tickets here to catch the show, which runs throughout June: http://www.theatre503.com/