Half Breed by Natasha Marshall. Runs until 30 Sep 2017 at Soho Theatre.
Natasha, or Tash, Marshall is talented. In Half-Breed, she fizzes with energy and bursts from character to character exuding a visceral physicality that pulls you in and spits you out.
At turns frenetic and always at high octane, her performance is still precise and engaging. This is helped by an unadorned set, a complementary sound track and by direction that focuses word play, character shifts and brings out Marshall’s physical presence. It is a virtuoso performance. Fierce. Not little but Talawa (who are co-producers and creatively nurtured Marshall)
Yet for all its 110% energy always fully committed, I found myself longing for the few moments of Marshall’s softer voice. The quieter moments of reflection and realisation. The gentle rhymes and chimes of an intriguing word cascade, the unusual catches of phrase and thought.
She spits out racial slurs with the best of them. Audience wincing as the bullets hit. The casual racism reminding the London crowd that perhaps London is really another country (pro-Other, pro-difference, pro-immigration, a city in constant practice and fight to be woke and woke against its great city Frenemies such as New York).
I liked the soft moments best. At its gentle heart, I thought I heard Marshall’s voice the clearest and at its most original. The observations of a life long childhood friendship fraying under the weight of stones and dreams and trees. The pieces of poetry which could jar but seem to me to slip through on a sharpened heightened plane. The fond characterisation of Gran.
“We sat on the kitchen floor once and we dreamed about this.
I’m sorry, Jaz, I’m holding you back.
You’re not Gran, I’m here with you now, can’t you see me [...]
She’s the only face I see,
As I’m staring at her and she’s staring at me."
All the misfits can identify. The middle of Soho has to be the heart of getting knocked down and standing up stronger. Perhaps the play’s true performance home is a Wiltshire village. The points of racism, otherness and outsiderness are well made but, to my ear, not as universally-unique as the Brog-Jaz friendship.
Maybe I don’t look - I don’t see - I don’t really look enough; because how many plays for mixed raced women are there? Count them for me. That didn’t take long, did it?
She’s just stood there just staring at me.
And I’m staring at her like “Brog help”
But she’s watching me,
Like I watched her,
And didn’t help.
And I’m staring at her,
And she’s staring at me,
And the whole room’s laughing.
Except for she
Half Breed runs until 30 Sep at Soho Theatre. It runs 60 minutes and is a fizzing way to spend an hour, you can even get home to help the children to bed.