Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Francesca Eagleton
We were definitely left ‘feeling good’ after Olivier-award nominated actress Josette Bushell-Mingo brought her one-woman show, ‘Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone’ to the Lowry Theatre.
Originally performed in 2016 at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool, Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone toured across Sweden last year before starting its 2018 UK tour here in Salford.
The show opens with Bushell-Mingo painting a picture of a civil rights rally in Harlem, New York, during the early 1960’s – a time of promised revolution for the oppressed black citizens of America.
Featuring an outstanding repertoire of Nina Simone hits including; Mississippi Goddam, Sinnerman, Ain’t Got No (I Got Life) and Feeling Good. Bushell-Mingo had the Lowry audience in the palm of her hand, as she retold important chapters of her life and connection to the legendary artist and civil rights activist. She begins by singing Simone’s 1969 single, Revolution but stops in her tracks.
“The truth is I don’t think a revolution has happened yet.” Bushell-Mingo explains that it has been over 150 years since the singing of the Thirteenth Amendment and the abolishment of slavery, but society still struggles with racial inequality. “How did we come to a time when we have to say Black Lives Matter?” She begins reciting a list of names of black people, including Martin Luther King Jr and Stephen Lawrence who were all persecuted and murdered.
Laquan McDonald is part of that list, an unarmed teenager who was shot 16 times by a police officer in Chicago in 2014 – his name is repeated throughout the show. Signifying this moment in history, Bushell-Mingo stamps her foot, counting them off every time, to represent each individual gunshot. Followed by silence, which while unsettling to the audience captured the injustice perfectly without the need for words.
Finishing the show with a selection of Simone’s finest compositions, supported by an exceptional live band; Shapor Bastansiar (musical director and pianist), Shaney Forbes (Drums) and Neville Malcom (Bass). Bushell-Mingo brings the house down with her exquisite powerhouse voice, quite rightly receiving a standing ovation.
She might say, ‘I’m Nina Simone’s understudy” but this is so much more than a straight up tribute performance, it’s a performance full of fire, fury and a whole lot of sass. But it also leaves you feeling strong and empowered – everything that Nina Simone was.
Catch this powerful and soulful show at the Lowry Theatre before it finishes it’s run on February 3rd tickets available here.