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Woke review at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh – ‘powerful monologue’

Apphia Campbell in Woke at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic Apphia Campbell in Woke at Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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It’s the word of the moment, woke. Do you care about social justice? About civil rights? You’re woke. Even more so if you tweet about it.

Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough’s powerful monologue contrasts Black Lives Matter with the Black Panthers, asking how far America has progressed in addressing its race problem.

And the answer, the play proves, is not very. Campbell plays Ambrosia, a naive student who’s just started university near Ferguson following the shooting of Michael Brown. She sees protests as parties, as a chance to sing show tunes in front of a crowd.

She also plays America’s most wanted woman, Assata Shakur, a former Black Panther convicted of killing a state trooper in 1977, who broke out of prison and has been living in Cuba ever since (she’s still there).

Punctuating her performance with stirring snatches of spiritual and folk songs, Campbell charts these two lives. Ambrosia’s bright-eyed and bouncy naivety turns to idealism, and idealism to ferocity, as she learns how colossally unfairly society is weighted against people of colour.

Although the Shakur storyline doesn’t develop fully and the piece struggles to move beyond its good intentions, it does get its point across forcefully, with Caitlin Skinner’s bare staging varying between frenzied and still as Campbell darts between these two lives – separated by time, united in their refusal to acquiesce to racism.


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Powerful monologue that contrasts the Black Panthers with Black Lives Matter