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The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin – Review

Bubbly TRSE Karis Jack (Young Viveca) & Trevor A Toussaint (Daddy) Credit Scott Rylander
Bubbly TRSE Karis Jack (Young Viveca) & Trevor A Toussaint (Daddy) Credit Scott Rylander

This is one Black African American girl’s journey from the 1960s to 1990s where she has to deal with being black in a society where different forms of racisms and sexisms are thrown at her. Young Viveca is an innocent black girl living in Los Angeles in the 1960s, where in her bedroom she reads of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four black girls were blown up by the Ku Klux Klan. She plays with her ‘Chitty Chatty’ doll and admires the white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes of the doll, craving more and more to be like the doll. She decides to be white just like ‘Chitty Chatty’. And with that, the story begins.

She dreams of being the biggest dancing star in the world! Her father encourages her to dream big. Young Viveca portrayed by Karis Jack played the role remarkably, she is full of life, energy and charisma. Young Viveca says ‘you can call me Bubbly’ and what an appropriate name she chooses for herself, on the surface full of fun and excitement but beneath the bubbles, all the emotions are simmering away. There are too many emotions for her to process and respond to.

The façade of pretending to be something that she is not, takes her through a roller-coaster journey. On this journey, she gets called an ‘Oreo’. She falls in love only to discover she is ‘someone on the side’, her blackness and afro hair is admired. She is hit by institutional racism and all this is influenced by the year that she is in and the political scenes of that time. I can see myself and the audience relating to some of these issues and that’s very powerful.

The music was fantastic and there were varying styles, of course reflecting the year the production was set, so obviously hip hop and Reggae popped their heads up. Ashley Joseph delivered some impressive dance steps and the audience wooed him on, but do be warned there is a lot of pelvic thrusting.

Young Viveca goes through the experiences of life and comes out the other end as an older Viveca, played exceptionally well by Sophia MacKay. The question now is does older Viveca decide to be herself and maximise on the opportunities surrounding her, using the skills she has to make the most of her life while being truthful to herself or does she decide it’s best to continue the façade? Does she even know who she really is, or will Bubbly proudly stand up and say I am ‘Viveca Stanton’.

As I walked out of the auditorium, I wasn’t quite sure whether I should laugh from all the humour and fun in the play, feel high from the great amazing buzzing music, feel satisfied and content from the energy and great performances, or cry from the sadness that the issues raised in this production are real and they probably relate to the majority of us.

5 Star Rating

Review by Shaidi Ramsurrun

A life-affirming and funny coming-of- age story which follows Viveca, a bright African American girl from a black middle class family in LA, who dreams of becoming a dancer.

Choosing to face the conflicts of a changing era in America with optimism rather than revolution, she learns to reconcile the realities of racism and sexism with hope and faith and discovers her self-worth.

This award-winning off-Broadway musical is a cheeky and satirical look at how women have been defined by others and themselves from the 1960s to present day, with an original score fusing Motown, pop and R&B – think Sondheim meets Beyoncé!

Theatre Royal Stratford East and Belgrade Theatre Coventry present the European première of
The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin
Book, music and lyrics by Kirsten Childs

At Theatre Royal Stratford East
Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN

Cast: Matt Dempsey (Director Bob/Policeman), Llandyll Gove (Cosmic/Prince), Karis Jack (Young Viveca), Ashley Joseph (Lucas), Sophia Mackay (Older Viveca), Jay Marsh (Gregory), Jessica Pardoe (Chitty Chatty/Miss Pain/Scarlett), Trevor A Toussaint (Daddy), Sharon Wattis (Mommy) and Shelley Williams (Granny/Yolanda/Nilda).
Director: Josette Bushell-Mingo; Designer: Rosa Maggiora; Choreographer: Mykal Rand

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