Review: What Black Women Want
JORDAN BICKERTON: ‘The quality of the music and the often affecting evocation of everyday dramas combined to make ‘What Black Women Want’ a highly enjoyable show.’
Corn Exchange, Friday 16th April.
‘What Black Women Want’ is an ambitious and thoroughly engaging production, infusing powerful music with earthy portraits of the triumphs and struggles of ordinary women. The conceit is relatively simple – soul diva Glorious Jones is winding down a world tour with a return to a smaller, more intimate venue. Between songs, she recounts various anecdotes, each of which segue into a short scene played out by members of the on-stage ‘audience’. The ambition of the piece lies in the nature of these interludes, as day-to-day incidents are emphasised.
Focusing on such ‘ordinary’ events could easily have backfired, but genuine tension is created by the presentation of a whole range of human experience, from the heady excitement of an unexpected marriage proposal, to an unflinching exploration of domestic abuse. Hope was the dominant theme, however, as each situation was redeemed by the power of music, and the inner resilience of the women themselves.
Perhaps inevitably, the brevity of these sketches did sacrifice a degree of depth and continuity, leaving little scope for character development; moreover, the quality of the scenes varied, with certain portrayals far more convincing than others. No such accusations can be made against the music – Sandra McCalla was fantastic as Glorious Jones, every inch the diva with her sultry voice and silky dresses (designed specifically for the production by Camelle Daley.)
The onstage band was clinical in its performance of the original soundtrack, which moved from reggae to soul with assurance. One track, ‘Girl I Got Your Back’ was particularly impressive – a riotous blast of a tune, only a step away from a Beyoncé hit with its uplifting chorus and Timbaland-esque synth stabs. Although slight flaws kept this from being truly Glorious, the quality of the music and the often affecting evocation of everyday dramas combined to make ‘What Black Women Want’ a highly enjoyable show.