Yvette – By Urielle Klein-Mekongo
Commissioned by the Bernie Grant Arts Centre and supported by Hull 2017 Back to Ours Festival
‘‘Evie is thirteen and lives in Neasden with her mum.
She wants to tell us about something – her crush on Lewis, trying to be a woman, friends, virginity, garage remixes, Hello Kitty underwear. Someone lurking in the corner of her story.
She wants to make us laugh, and she’s pretty good at it.
She wants to tell us something, but she daren’t let it out.
Based a true story, Yvette is a one woman show with original music about a stolen childhood and growing up with a secret.
Commissioned by the Bernie Grant Arts Centre and supported by Hull 2017 Back to Ours Festival.’’ (Bernie Arts Centre)
Yvette, the Bernie Grant Arts Centre one-woman diasporic storytelling, narrates the story of a young 13yr old girl from Neasden. Neasden is my endz. It’s not everyday, or at all common, that areas of Brent are referenced or even spoken of. I rarely even know or get to meet people from my area. So naturally, I had to go and watch this play at the Bernie Grant arts Centre. Not entirely based on this fact, I had a general interest but seeing Neasden in the brief description given of the piece performed by the talented Urielle Klein-Mekongo, I purchased my ticket and attended the Friday viewing in the heart of Seven Sisters.
This was an intimate play, the stage drawing you in as you were so seamlessly close to give the impression that you were in her home, intentionally. The stage displayed props that I read as diasporic intervisuality, a familiarity that only individuals that had grown in black households would understand. A white bathtub with the metal plate that fitted on the edges of the tub that held the rags and the red soups,, the coat hanger with uncles coats so they wouldn’t crease. All props that I had in my own grandmother’s home, in my aunt’s home, the stage read and felt as Home and felt like family, the stage welcomed me.
The use of playbacks, beat making guttering sounds and melodies all added to the experience of Yvette’s story. Yvette’s story was captivating, Yvette drew you in and spat you back out. It was familiar in the purest form, it was raw and heart-wrenchingly honest. It took you on a journey of childhood, of trauma and of sexual abuse. Forcing you to bear witness. Yvette made you face these feelings, these experiences these narratives and these realities. Warm salty tears poured down my face during the bleaching scene and the sexual violence. I felt like I too was Yvette at some point, in different situations, under different circumstances. I could also see how the light that Yvette once had as a thirteen year old child, how her joy got violently stolen from her; how her innocence was taken and how those closest to her didn’t or couldn’t protect her.
A meticulous performance, where you found yourself submerged and lost within the sounds and visual of Yvette. All performed by gestures, utterances and sounds. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Expressing moments of both humour and emotional trauma, Yvette conveyed all of these experiences that mark and shape our identities from childhood. We see Yvette as she navigates her childhood and how she changes and how her experiences change her to ‘act out’ and rebel or, how these experiences affect her mental health growing up.
This was an outstanding performance that I would recommend all to go and watch and to support.
Urielle Klein-Mekongo we Salute You.