Dark and Lovely is part of Ovalhouse’s autumn 2015 season FABULUSM, an extraordinary collection of work celebrating the fantastical in the everyday.
Dark and Lovely is a piece of immersive theatre created and performed by 25 year old, Leeds’ based performance artist Selina Thompson. Selina has previously created bodies of work focused on the politics of identity and how this informed and defines our lives. Dark and Lovely is a short (just over 1 hour) piece exploring what it is to be Black, British and Female!
So, you may ask what the hell is a pale skinned ginger woman doing going to see this show and how does one review this show with any validity. I thought this before I went as well, however, growing up ginger is a not an easy thing. Schoolyard taunts and the stigma of being ginger never goes away. I personally was interested to see how this relates to those growing up with afros in the UK.
On arrival to the performance space we are confronted with a massive (and I mean massive) weave – it looks like a child’s Wendy House although it is made from extensions and hair weaves. Inter-tangled into its structure is a number of combs and hair dryers. We are welcomed by Selina. She is stood at the Tumbleweave’s (As she has named it) entrance with a hostess trolley. She invites all of her audience to check out the weave, have a good look around, feel it, look inside etc.
After everyone is in (the show is designed for an audience of up to 40 people) Selina warmly talks to us, it’s comfortable as if we are sat with a best friend – catching up after not seeing each other for years. Selina has a charming, warm and engaging style, she puts us at ease, offers us a glass of rum and here her story begins.
The piece is a combination of spoken word, both directed to the audience and engaging with them. We are here to explore if Hair is Just Hair!
Selina has crafted a beautiful show that not only lets us into her own private work, fears, dreams, memories and desires, but also lets us question our own view of society. What do we think of Black women who choose to wear their hair natural, what do we think of Black women who choose to wear a weave? How does society treat them? How does the beauty and cosmetic world exploit this, How do the films of Walt Disney affect children growing up – after all until recently the princess came in one style – BLONDE! Who are the powerful female Black role models? How do they choose to wear their hair? What does this mean to society? Why is a person with an afro always cast as troublesome in a film or TV programme? After all Hair is Just Hair, Right?
We explore the relationship with Barbers’ Hair Salons and the maintenance of afro hair. Selina tells us, it’s no coincidence that many Television and Film works are set in a hairdressers setting – think Desmond’s the show that aired on British TV in the late 1980s/90s.
Selina explores what it is to be Black and what it isn’t to be blond with blue eyes. She explores this beautifully through stories, interactive hair salon with her audience, cleverly constructed text and sound effects of the brushing of hair, tangled and pulled.
I left the piece feeling empowered, strong and like I’d had an insight into a world I’d never have the chance to explore first hand. I also left the piece and immediately bought two tickets for my friend’s (a Black woman with European hair and her daughter with afro hair).
The work that Selina is doing is really interesting and I would love to see further works of hers. She has a larger than life personality and a warmth and makes you feel like she is performing to you, not a room full of people.
This is definitely a show worth seeing and a performer to keep an eye on. The show is both Dark and Lovely.
Review by Faye Stockley
Dark & Lovely is a performance from inside the Tumbleweave; a home for hair built from abandoned weaves and extensions. Using recorded conversation, music and written text Selina explores the complexities of social debate surrounding Black hair, transforming the Tumbleweave, which is admittedly ‘a little bit gross’, into something beautiful, which can transcend the weight of all the connotations placed upon it, and reveal just what our hair does, and more importantly, doesn’t tell us, about what it is to be Black.
Dark and Lovely Trailer
Dark and Lovely