Review: Black is the Color of My Voice

Life of legendary American songstress and civil rights activist

Dir Arran A Hawkins
Cast Apphia Campbell

Loosely based on the life of legendary American songstress and civil rights activist Nina Simone, Black is the Color of My Voice is the first venture by new theatre company Play the Spotlight – and from what we can see, they’re off to a great start. 

Written and acted by Apphia Campbell, the one-woman show’s premise is simple: world-weary singer Mena Bordeaux is trying to come to terms with a falling out with her recently deceased father. As she reflects on her life and choices, Simone’s music is integrated into the show to dramatic effect. The tiny Anken Green rooftop space adds intimacy to the show, almost forcing the audience to feel that they are intruding on Bordeaux’s personal experience. 

Having written the show herself, Campbell is able to show off her range in the role of Bordeaux. In the span of an hour and a half, she goes from elated to heartbroken, whimsical to wistful. Her star power increases every time she belts out one of Simone’s hits, and as she makes her way from ‘See-Line Woman’ to‘Feeling Good,’ audience members sing along under their breath and unwittingly dance in their seats. 

lack is the Color of My VoiceUnfortunately, some aspects of amateur theatre permeate the show, distracting from an otherwise highly enjoyable experience. On opening night, the show started nearly 30 minutes late, and was interrupted by an altogether unnecessary intermission just half an hour later. 

Moreover, Campbell’s strong voice is sometimes a bit too booming for the small space, leaving front-row seat patrons wincing. Overlooking these shortcomings, however, Black is the Color of My Voice shines, bringing a little bit of American soul to Shanghai theatre. 

Black is the Color of My Voice is playing at Anken Green’s rooftop space from 23-26 May and 30 May – 2 June. See event details.