Nina Simone, the high priestess of soul, left a mighty legacy behind her and Josette Bushell-Mingo’s excellent show co-produced by Unity Theatre and Riksteatern of Sweden, about the timeless singer, musician and civil rights activist, documents Simone’s struggle for equality and draws together tales from Simone’s life and her own extraordinary career. Josette connects her life to Simone’s then, and to hers now. Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone is about the meaning of Simone’s story, for her as a black woman. While she may talk about Simone’s life, this is far from your typical biography. It all starts with a young girl taken to church and asked to sing and play but refusing to until her parents who were segregated at the back of the church were allowed to sit at the front, where they damn well should be. It moves through time to more recent events, including the shooting of the unarmed Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald. Counting out the 16 shots that it took to kill this young man in under 14 seconds, she brings tears to your eyes. Throughout the play, there’s talk of revolution and when Black Lives Matter questions are raised we’re asked – have things really changed all that much? The promise was ‘change was going to come’ but has it, are things really different? Sitting behind my comfortable white privilege it made me angry and if I could feel this, what is it like for those that truly experience it. This isn’t a story of rage, it’s a play about justice, a play that highlights that things need to move forward. An uncomfortable watch at times, it needs to be. The positives – the talk of the friends that rally when times get tough, the amazing talent that is Josette Bushell-Mingo. This show comes highly recommended and when she asks “Why are we still not free” I’m ashamed to say – I don’t know.


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