A cleverly written and passionately performed bombardment, For a Black Girl is a piece wrestling with the exposure of racism and sexism. As we entered the Brick Hall and took our seats, a screen at the back of the stage rolled credits, giving an impression of entering after the official narrative has run its course. Beneath the screen sat the writer of the piece, Nicole Acquah, calmly flicking through a magazine and obviously preparing herself to viscerally dismantle assumptions in the coming hour.
The other actors filtered in – one male, four female, all white – and the show began with our male actor slipping into the role of mansplainer incarnate: “racism and sexism don’t exist”. From this moment forward, racist and sexist realities were explored and questioned using a combination of bluntness, humour and philosophy in a show that never took its eyes off the audience.
Running on one after another, often very slickly transitioned, we were taken through a series of vignettes involving oppression of women and racial discrimination, with movement used to further express and explore certain narratives. For me, one of the most powerful images of the piece came from the simplest use of physical theatre; a line of women sitting one behind the other during a rape trial. They would nod and shake their heads and shift in their chairs in a ripple of never-ending undermined experience that seemed to stretch far beyond the five actors on stage. The audience was actively engaged in the piece, implicated in the piece, by meta-theatrical moments.
Most notable was the shock that came with being told that we had, inadvertently, been part of an experiment on the value of the male voice. Our own presumptions and privileges were bravely and humorously dropped before us so that we may fall over them and learn in the process. There was a sense of being totally overwhelmed, oversaturated, the vast array of different stories running in a colliding and babbling flow. Initially I thought that the play was trying to do too much, there were simply too many threads to follow, but as the evening went on I realised that actually the multitude of stories in itself indicates how this show is only scratching the surface. This was seen at its most promiment when undercutting its own performative nature in its final moments by interrupting the bow to ask what happened to the girl in the court case, and to tell us a bitter and all too familiar “joke” that left us silent.