Catch one-off London performance of ‘For Colored Girls’

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You may be most familiar with the screen adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s deeply affecting play, For Colored Girls, but make sure to catch a special one-off London performance of the original play this Friday 13th September. Pride caught up with Cambridge students Justina Kehinde and Ifeyinwa Frederick, the dynamic duo responsible for taking the play from its pages to the London stage…

You originally performed the play at your university, Cambridge and it broke history becoming the first all-black, all female production in 800 years…

Ifeyinwa: Justina was putting on the play and even thought I went into it blind, I became quite attached to it. There’s just so much in it that is relevant, regardless of whether you have experienced those situations yourself. For instance, in one of the poems, a lady talks about how for women, something as innocent as offering up a smile can give people the wrong impression about you. We had no idea it was going to be as big of a deal as it was in Cambridge, but hearing the way people spoke about it afterwards and how girls as well as men engaged with it, we knew if we had the chance to perform in London, we’d jump at it.

What inspired you to stage this play in particular?

Justina: I originally encountered the play while studying women’s voices in post-colonial literature and fell in love with it from there. Although my first year studying English Literature at Cambridge was wonderful, I was frustrated at the fact that there was nothing representing my culture [I’m of Nigerian heritage] or reflecting me in the texts I studied. That’s when I decided it was up to me to do something, Shange’s poem was one that spoke to me so it was the obvious choice.

What is it about For Colored Girls that resonates with women?

J: It talks about all those things still on the agenda today –rape, abortion, HIV, falling in love, female desire, in very innovative but also very real ways. I can relate to those things; and a lot of other people can too.

What do you want audiences to feel when they see the play this Friday?

I: I basically want tears! I’m half-joking. I want all people to feel like they’ve gained something by seeing the play. I also want to dispel the myth that this play is just for black women –I don’t agree with that. Anyone can come and see this. Yes, it’s a poem that features black women but I want people to think of it as a really good production that just happens to involve black women. When I said I wanted tears, what I meant was that I want people to feel slightly uncomfortable when they see it. I don’t want people to switch off and forget about it the minute it’s over –that’s why we have the Q&A afterwards.

Get your tickets to see For Colored Girls at Canada Water Space this Friday 13th September. A Q&A hosted by journalist Hannah Pool will follow the  performance. Canadawaterculturespace.org.uk

[Photo by Natalie Keeney]


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