Review: Life, the universe and family drama in Mosquitoes, National Theatre
Up close and personal: Tales from sitting on the front row at the theatre

Review: A life in and of music - Nina, Young Vic and Traverse, Edinburgh

NinaWeb3PortraitimageJosette Bushell-Mingo is dressed as Nina Simone, a three piece band on stage plays out a rhythm and she describes the build up to her concert at Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. It is vivid and evocative and you can almost feel the excitement of the occasion.

It also makes an interesting framing device - the piece finishes with Josette performing a mini-concert of Nina Simone songs - for a journey into Nina Simone's songs and the context behind the lyrics. But this isn't merely a history lesson, it is also a lesson in how little has changed.

When Josette unpicks the lyrics of key songs giving back the original meaning, she interweaves them with her own story and accounts of recent racist attacks in the US, UK and beyond. When Nina Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam it was a response to racist killings in Mississippi and a 'f*ck you' to white society. The message was clear then and in telling the story in both a historical and modern context it shines a light on how far society has and hasn't come in 50 odd years.

To drive home the point Josette turns a metaphorical gun back on the audience imagining a scenario where it is white people being shot simply because of the colour of their skin. It is a simple but powerful device that makes an important point, several important points. That injustice, inequality and racism are still alive and the revolution Nina Simone sang about and hoped for still has a long way to go.

As you tap your toes, or nod along to the final medley of songs there is now a deeper meaning behind the lyrics but it also serves as a reminder of the joy and shared experience of live music, of Nina Simone's music.

This piece manages to be part celebration, part warning, part lesson lost and lesson learned. It mixes joy, frustration and anger and you won't come away without feeling its resonance. It is one hour and twenty minutes without an interval as is at the Young Vic until July 29 before transferring to the Traverse in Edinburgh from 5-13 August.