A fusion of monologue and dance, Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ is considered a milestone in black feminist theatre. This adaptation plays like a bid for artistic kudos by Tyler Perry – loved by black audiences, scorned by critics – and while stylistically ungainly, it also showcases a cast of extraordinary black actresses. A cavalcade of abuse, abortion, religious mania and rape, it’s a harrowing journey towards the reclamation and transcendence of pain. Perry struggles to shape it into a narrative through-line of criss-crossing lives but bravely integrates the play’s monologues, performed with intensity by Kimberley Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine and Thandie Newton. For some, this will jar with the soap-opera theatrics elsewhere, but those sympathetic to the fervour of, say, Nina Simone, Cassandra Wilson or even Jill Scott, will know how extreme experiences forge a new, self-determined language.
Friday December 10 2010
Tyler Perry, Ntozake Shange