Lizzie Coupat checks out UCL’s original and diverse first BME showcase.
UCL’s first BME (Black Minority Ethnic) showcase took place this week at The Lion and Unicorn, a cosy Kentish Town pub with an intimate theatre space upstairs. BME actors are often given stereotypical roles that prevent them from being individual performers. This project, which is full of ambition and originality, gives voice to UCL’s minority community, portraying a variety of topics through the realisation and interpretation of some strong talent. The performance was as diverse in its content as in its cast, showcasing talent through music, film, plays, poetry and spoken word.
The show opened with an ambitious quintet who harmonised beautifully a capella and albeit a few wobbly notes, the audience was instantly captivated. This was followed by a short film exploring what art means to students, ‘The arts is where I feel alive’, and the matching up of hand movements with the words was skilfully executed. Next came the first play ‘Ocean’ by Mei Lian Hoe, an intense, passionate and emotional drama about an ex-police detective tortured psychologically by guilt and visions of his ex. The performances were raw and full of expression, with the ex’s hallucinatory voice cleverly implemented.
The showcase also featured a variety of strong individual talent. ‘Home’, a poem about having to drastically leave one’s home and start a new life in an unknown place, performed by Matt Callendar was a definite standout, with his deep, resonating voice and expressive features instigating the first applause. This was followed by an ambitious recital by Umar Sabat, who performed a trio of poems and spoken word. Although he stumbled occasionally, his work was impressive with sounds and syllables rolling off his tongue to create interesting rhythms and combinations. The second act opened with a series of monologues, ‘True Scenes from Fictional Lives’, tackling the difficulties faced in life, and an acknowledgement must go to standout actors and writers Maymana Arefin, Jamie Hardie and EJ Oakley. The show’s wildcard manifested itself through ‘Desdemona’, a mixture of music from Ore Babasina and spoken word with Danielle De Vito beautifully taking on the character of Desdemona. The piece touched upon a variety of issues, ranging from the oppression of women in a male-dominated world to the under representation of African women in domestic roles. In particular, the recurring mirroring and mime in the background was carefully crafted and the ‘Willow’ song was both hypnotic and eloquent. Finally, the show concluded with Ayo Okekie’s ‘Still I Rise’, leaving the audience with goose bumps and flooded in light.
This showcase successfully readdressed the traditional conventions of the performing arts by taking the viewer on a journey of originality and diversity. UCLU Drama Society’s role and implication in the BME community must be recognised and I hope it sparks the drive of similar projects across other UCL artistic and creative disciplines.
Featured Image: Dante Kim