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Queens of Sheba review at Underbelly Cowgate – ‘powerful polemic against the discrimination black women face’

Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku, Veronica Beatrice Lewis in Queens of Sheba at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku, Veronica Beatrice Lewis in Queens of Sheba at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh
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Nouveau Riche’s Queens of Sheba – one of the winners of New Diorama and Underbelly’s Untapped Award – is strikingly unadorned. Four black women stand on a bare stage. There’s no recorded music, no amplification, no lighting changes – just four people ready to be seen and heard.

Focusing on an office workplace, a disastrous first date and a queue for a club, the show is a funny, acute commentary on misogynoir (misogyny directed towards black women). It’s incredibly emotionally charged, especially in its latter half when discussing misogyny among black men and in hip hop.

Rachel Clarke, Jacoba Williams, Koko Kwaku and Veronica Beatrice Lewis, all captivating storytellers, form a united front. They speak in chorus, repeating playwright Jessica Hagan’s poetic hooks, sometimes singing in unison, often passing the voice of a single woman between themselves. They are the voice of all-too-many black women who have experienced the litany of micro and macro-aggressions they detail.

While the show is undeniably potent, its polemical style means it sometimes feels like a Twitter thread in theatrical form, failing to exploit its status as theatre fully. But what it might lack in complexity of form it makes up for in the urgency of its anger.

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Verdict
Powerful and funny polemic against misogynoir
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