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Half Breed review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘excoriating but exhausting’

Natasha Marshall in Half Breed. Photo: Richard Davenport Natasha Marshall in Half Breed. Photo: Richard Davenport

Natasha Marshall’s first full-length show Half Breed bubbles with hate, bitterness and a visceral, vital defiance. An hour-long monologue, grown from the seed of spoken-word poetry, performed by Marshall herself and staged with stark economy by Miranda Cromwell, it tells the story of Jazmin, a mixed-race teenager struggling to escape her oppressive West Country home.

It’s a technically dazzling piece of writing. In the first person, Marshall fiercely evokes the small-minded world Jazmin has grown up in – its stunted ambition in her best friend’s instinctive fear of London; its prejudice in a local lad’s brazen racial slurs and the laughter ringing around the pub.

Half Breed repeatedly climbs snappily poetic peaks, Marshall working herself up into a fever pitch of spitting verse, then skipping and stuttering like a scratched CD. It’s a powerful tool, a window into the jumble of thoughts and fears swirling around her head – an identity crisis happening out loud.

But for all its energy and anger, and despite a fine, febrile performance from Marshall, Half Breed loses something in its relentless vitriol. The characters become caricatures, the frenzied fury grows one-note, and the cathartic conclusion hollows out. It’s an important and excoriating show, but also an exhausting one.

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Summary: A visceral, vitriolic portrait of a mixed-race teenager and her struggle against parochial prejudice