Nina: A Story About Me & Nina Simone at Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Posted on 19 October 2016
By Chris High
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Nina: A Story About Me & Nina Simone, currently at The Unity Theatre, offers a different take on the legacy of Nina Simone and is, quite simply, outstanding theatre.

Nina Simone. Singer. Artist. Freedom fighter. Activist. Reactionary and, some might say, revolutionary. Some might also say that hers is life worth more than studying, that it is worth imbibing, of breathing in and exhaling so that others might benefit. That her music was inspirational, captivating and – at a period in history when civil rights were being fought so harshly against, not only in the USA but across the globe – brave, is as undeniable as it is indelible.

What is also fact is that it left its indissoluble mark upon those who heard it and to say that it left its mark on Josette Bushell-Mingo is evident from the moment she steps on stage as herself until she leaves it again – having provided some searing, heart wrenching renditions of some of Simone’s glorious songs – still as herself.

This is what truly stands out about this play with songs. It never attempts to imitate the unique. Instead, it tells of Josette and her experiences growing up, with Nina Simone as her soundtrack and the events of her history as a chalkboard.

Yes, it is at times provocative and, yes, at times, it is an uncomfortable watch. Good. It is at times an uncomfortable subject and besides, good theatre should make us uncomfortable at times. Make us think. Make us consider others as well as we consider ourselves. This is exactly what Nina sets out to do and is exactly what it achieves.

The vocalisation of the songs – and the magnificent musicianship of those on stage – underpin everything superbly well, with Bushell-Mingo maintaining her control expertly throughout. Take a look at the wall stage right whilst she sings I Loves You Porgy and try to convince yourself that it isn’t Nina herself urging the artist forward, rather than just her own shadow. As for Mississippi Goddamn, well, the foundations may well need checking as a matter of health and safety.

With lighting and set design that is befitting that of any West End production, which fits where it should and where it shouldn’t in equal measure, and a performance that will be difficult to rival anywhere and at any time, Nina: A Story About Me & Nina Simone oozes class from first to last.

Nina: A Story About Me & Nina Simone
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
October 15 – October 29
Concept: Josette Bushell-Mingo
Director: Dritero Kasapi
Producer: Riksteatern / Unity
Musical Director: Shapor Bastansiar
Cast: Josette Bushell-Mingo
Musicians: Marque Gilmore / Shane Forbes (Drums), Jair-Rohm Parker Wells (Bass), Shapor Bastansiar (Piano)
Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins
PR Rating: ***** Provocatively Inspiring

For Tickets & Information: www.unitytheatre.co.uk


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