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REVIEW - Black Love at Roundabout - Immense, Magical and Simply Breathtaking!!!

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One of our trusted reviewers, Abigail Holden, went to Roundabout in Swinton to review Black Love. Here is what Abi had to say...

In the words of the band, Mather Robinson, “You should have been there!” Roundabout is back for another year, in Salford, this time taking residence in Victoria Park, Swinton. The event, which began in 2015, is back with a bang, with some very exciting performances for the community to enjoy. As a first-time visitor to the event, which is supported by Salford Mad Pride, I was extremely excited to see what was going to happen. I was not disappointed.

Getting back into a theatre was, if I’m honest, a little overwhelming. I had longed to be there for so long and there I was, sitting in a pop-up theatre, watching live performances. And it was immense. The beginning of the evening provided us with The Swinton Community showcase including poetry (from the Thirsty poet himself, Matt Conz), singing (from Domonique, Mollie and Daniel) and a live band (which is where we were introduced to Mather Robinson). The feeling inside the theatre was magical. People spoke of their lockdown troubles and the excitement at finally being able to be back, performing, was infectious. You couldn’t help but smile and the talent was incredible!

Partnering with the Lowry, the theatre company Paines Plough brought it’s very first musical to the Roundabout theatre and did so to a captive audience. The story of Black Love, the tale of a brother and sister, Orion and Aurora, shows a relationship and love between two siblings, who cling onto their heritage and history through the memories of their parents. Written by Chinonyerem Odimba, with the amazing music of the Ringham Brothers, the story follows the pair as someone new poses a threat to their relationship and life. The story itself is powerful and thought-provoking, with a strong message of black feminism and the wrongness of black stereotypes throughout. It made me think, as a white woman, about how I have never thought about it, because I haven’t had to. The highlighted injustice of the world, through this beautiful tale, is pure magic. It makes you realise how little you actually know, in the bubble of your own day-to-day life. We don’t know, because we don’t ask, as is said in the play.

The intimate setting of a small theatre, with minimal set and lighting that fit the mood of the action, made the performance of 80 minutes fly by. I was enraptured. I couldn’t look away. It’s simplicity gives you the opportunity to focus on the words and the action, with the use of projected images and interludes giving you time to take everything in.

Leah St Luce, who played Aurora (or Roo as she is known to her friends) drew the audience in with her beautiful vocals and fluid movements, making the audience fall in love with her, instantly. The raw emotion she showed, in the tougher moments of the play, gave me chills. The character of Roo made me want to be a better person and follow my own path. A strong, independent young woman who was trying to find her way in the world… I found myself being able to relate to that. There really is something for everyone throughout the action but Roo, as a character, resonated with me in a way I have never felt before.

The struggle shown in Orion’s story, who was played by Nathan Queeley-Dennis, was heart-breaking and gorgeous, all at the same time. The stereotypes and struggles placed on Orion, all whilst trying to find his path through life and start his dream career as an actor were intense and powerful, raising the issues he faced, with a hearty splash of comedy. The asides to the audience, in particular, made me chuckle.

The addition to the siblings, in the face of Lois, played by Eleanor Sutton, brought the story to a whole new level. The blatant misunderstanding, from the character, was played subtly and real. It was perfect in showing the issues that Roo and Orion faced, without being gimmicky. The realness was raw and stunning.

This new musical is like none I have ever seen before and, as an avid musical fan, I have seen a lot of them! Black Love shows the love between siblings, between boyfriend and girlfriend, and a love and admiration for the siblings’ heritage, history and understanding of one another. It is truly breath-taking and I will remember it for years to come.

We score Black Love 8/10.

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