These three audio dramas take us back to the dark days of the pandemic. The stories, produced by Stockroom and Pitlochry Festival theatre in association with Naked Productions, are told from a Black British perspective and take in a sweep of subjects, from the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests to the slow uptake of the first Covid-19 vaccine in Black British communities.
Written by Tonderai Munyevu, Maheni Arthur and Isaac Tomiczek and awash with Rina Mushonga’s invigorating music, each monologue contains a strong voice, unafraid to show its vulnerability, although at just over 20 minutes apiece they offer a too-brief synthesis of their subject matter.
Co-directed by Munyevu and Debbie Hannan, the dramas begin with the writers’ thinking processes, which gives the trilogy an interesting meta context. Tomiczek’s play, Brixton Royalty, performed by Kiren Kebaili-Dwyer, is about a working-class man’s return to the south London neighbourhood of his childhood. He walks through Brixton’s streets mourning the loss of a place that has been glaringly gentrified to exclude the less wealthy and less white.
Arthur’s The Process, performed by Michelle Tiwo, examines medical processes from the point of view of a Black woman. The system “isn’t set up for people like us”, her mother tells her, before a cervical smear test, and Arthur highlights the big disparities in care between Black and white women.
Munyevu tackles the Black community’s justified distrust of the medical system head-on in Trigger Warning, performed by Stefan Adegbola, combining it with reflections on the death of his mother during the pandemic. She did not die of Covid-19 but was suspicious of the vaccine, he says. There is great richness to this monologue but not enough space to extract its full potential.
Together, the dramas highlight much that should not be forgotten, including all that was promised following the BLM protests, alongside other charged if underexplored nuggets: Tomiczek’s musings on his mixed identity, Arthur’s mother-daughter relationship and Zimbabwe-born Munyevu’s reflections on Blackness. The difference between being a Zimbabwean Black man and a Black man in Britain, he says, is that the latter is given the message that “you are not wanted here”.
Available online on 12, 19 and 26 January