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Review: Queens of Sheba, Battersea Arts Centre or this is why I go to the theatre

Queens of Sheba is a play of contrasts it is angry and joyous, fun and sad, quietly contemplative and in your face loud.

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Queens of Sheba: Photo: Ali Wright

Re-Review: Nouveau Riche's Queens of Sheba was one of my favourite shows of the Edinburgh fringe last year. It reminded me of why I go to the theatre and how powerful and entertaining good theatre can be.

So I was thrilled to get the chance to see it again, this time in London at the Battersea Art Centre.

Based on real experience, its narrative reflects the dual prejudices faced by black women today - racism and sexism, or 'misogynoir'.

Powerful and reflective

Four performers bring to life a series of powerful vignettes each reflecting different experiences.

It starts with the workplace before moving on to a date with a white man, being refused entry into a nightclub, treatment by a black boyfriend and getting unwanted amorous attention while out.

It is performed as a mixture of conversation, songs and dance.

There are snatches of popular songs by black female artists with pertinent lyrics, contemporary chat and segments where the four speak in unison creating a powerful refrain.  

They take it in turns playing the protagonist of each vignette while the others take the supporting roles, switching characters, genders and personas with ease.

Sisterhood, its strength and support, is the warmth and glue of the piece, reflected in both the tight co-ordination and almost easy precision of the movement.

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Queens of Sheba. Photo: Ali Wright

Queens of Sheba is a production which engages the audience to an extent rarely seen, provoking a whole range of emotions and audible responses.

It is theatre that sends a powerful message, tells an important truth, and does it in a way that is moving, exposing, funny, celebratory and entertaining. And isn't that exactly what theatre should be?

The run at the Battersea Arts Centre is sold out but there are few more dates on the national tour (details on the Nouveau Riche website). Given the success of the piece - it's enjoyed sell-out runs and won awards I'll be surprised if this is the last we see of it.

It is an hour-long and it's getting another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.

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Want more about Queens of Sheba? Here's my Edinburgh review (which I haven't re-read as I wanted to review it again afresh).

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