Tuesday night (20th March 2018) in Hope Place, Liverpool at the Unity Theatre was where audiences witnessed Josette Bushell-Mingo channelling the revolutionary spirit of the immutable Nina Simone.
In an act of mesmerising alchemy Bushell-Mingo ensured that both women were present on the stage and weaved their personalities and sections of their individual life stories together.
Revolution, resistance and resilience were common threads in the performance that concluded with standing ovations for the live band and Bushell-Mingo.
Through seamless storytelling the audience discovered that Nina, as a young child, learnt an early lesson of the power of her musical presence in combination with her blackeness, and how she utilised that influence to ensure her parents could be present and seated in the front row of her first classical piano recital in the 1940s; in a similar way Josette Bushell-Mingo corralled her own musicality and Black presence on the stage to present a multi-disciplinary exposition of the reality of ‘living while Black’ in the 21st century.
The audience was captivated by the mixture of an emotionally charged spoken treatise aligned with the intense and powerful civil rights songs of Nina Simone.
The evening was filled with moments of laughter and audience participation along with the well-known songs of Nina Simone, as well and times of deep sorrow when a list of names and locations of many Black people who were murder were recited and remembered.
The essential silences of the performance were just as powerful as the liveliness of the music that continues to enchant listeners with its genius combination of classical, jazz, soul and blues melodies.
This complete stage performance invited the audience to think about the treatment of Black people in society and to start a new conversation on #BlackLivesMatter while celebrating the genius and skill of Nina Simone, and the amazing craft of Josette Bushell-Mingo who captivated the entire audience from the moment she walked in the auditorium, with typical Nina Simone style, and announced with aplomb, “I’m here now.”
Nina Simone would be proud.
© Marjorie H Morgan 2018