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BLACK By 20 Stories High

Published by: Kirstie Niland on 6th Mar 2015 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland

The Octagon Theatre, Bolton

My first thoughts on watching the horrific story unfold in Black is that this couldn’t possibly be the kind of thing that happens today. Not only have I never witnessed the kind of despicable racist abuse described, but the really shameful thing is, this kind of thing DOES still happen today.

So Toxteth-based 20 Stories High are doing society an enormous service by bringing Black to theatres and schools, both where racism is rife as well as where it isn’t. For the only way to eliminate racism is to educate, and this play focuses on doing just that, as teenager Nikki (played by Abby Melia) learns some home truths about her own thoughts, and the dangerous prejudices of the world she lives in.

Written by Keith Saha, Black is a monologue by Nikki, interspersed with interactions with new neighbour Precious (Craig Shanda, who presence is felt as he DJs n the background throughout), the eldest son of an African family who have moved into a mostly white estate on the outskirts of Liverpool.

The events that unfold as the family is taunted, abused and violated are extremely difficult to hear as Nikki begins telling us the story, in a matter of fact way at first, about the opinions of the racists targeting the family. The most disturbing thing of all is that Black is based on a true story, and as Nikki becomes increasingly upset and distressed, so we feel helpless in the audience. How can anyone treat their fellow human beings like that?

Abby’s portrayal of a character born into prejudice is so realistic you hang on to her every word, waiting to find out the fate of a family she is supposed to hate but can’t. In the end her courage and integrity are stronger than the pressure she faces from the racists, even those closest to her, and this is the triumph of Black. The power of education. With immigration such a hot topic and political persuader, racist attacks are on the increase in the UK, which is why it is vital that plays like Black are seen by youngsters while they are still at an impressionable age. Not so that they can be brainwashed but so they can think for themselves once they have all the facts.

Personally I don’t think anyone could do this with greater impact than 20 Stories High does with Black – and the message delivered by Precious in his and Nikki’s Country Road duet at the end.

OUR country. OUR road.

Photographs by Robert Day

Black is touring to a number of venues and will perform in schools for students aged 13+.

For further information contact info@20storieshigh.org.uk, tel: 0151 708 9728, www.20storieshigh.org.uk

 

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