Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s timely play is compellingly confrontational in nature. Black teenager Reece (Jelani D’Aguilar) is pinned down by police in a rough encounter outside an M&S, while his teacher Gillian (Misha Duncan-Barry) watches on. Her actions – or rather, a lack of action – in that moment is challenged by Reece not long afterwards, as he locks him and her in a classroom to discuss it further. The drama which follows is raw, tense and utterly thrilling.
Although it is Reece who locked the two of them in the room, the individual with the ‘power’ isn’t so easily defined. After all, there is the typical student-teacher dynamic, as well as man vs woman (the latter of which Reece tries out in the first instance) and the debate around the usage of the n-word. The ongoing wrestling for authority, and there reasons for wanting it, are fascinating, as the play dives into race’s intersections with gender and social roles. It’s quite the missed trick, however, that set designer Caitlin Mawhinney and director Dermot Daly don’t use the classroom desks as an embodiment of said dynamics, but it’s there in the pair’s performances – unrelentingly barbed and cutting in their delivery.
In the wake of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and everything else which followed, My Voice Was Heard feels imperative in its staging – an injustice among many explored in the text itself is that Kufuor’s informative script is yet to be published in playtext form. It’s so remarkably expansive in its subject matter, as it interrogates what it means to be Black and all the emotional baggage which comes with expressing anger as a Black person. The way in which said baggage is offloaded in 70-minutes is nothing short of captivating.
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is now playing at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 28 August.
It will then tour the UK, finishing at The Lowry in Manchester on 15 October 2022.
Production Images: Ant Robling.