Hear Me Now promises more than a theatrical experience, the venue – Cavern – is decorated with art as you walk in. Beautiful artwork by a collection of artists in a mix of media. I instantly adjust my expectations, and I am so wonderfully surprised. Hear Me Now is a spoken-word piece about the Black British experience and its multitudes of intersections and opinions. The performance uses the space so beautifully and fills the room with a breathtaking air of tension, joy and history.
Never does the writer, Mya Onwugbonu, assume too much of the audience and the characters. Each character has their own depth and plight and I never felt as if they fell into the pitfall of identity politics. The writing was at times kind and at times so cutting. It built the ebb and flow of tension perfectly like a game of tug of war.
Interlaced between the tableaus were two movement pieces, one of a hijabi moving/drowning through a long river of fabric, and one of a young man being assaulted and eventually stabbed by a gang. Both were striking and placed so well in the show. The cast had great chemistry and a wonderful trust between them which came through during these movement and unison pieces.
At times I felt as if certain actors were rushing through speeches and losing their words in the huge space. This was not due to a lack of skills but perhaps the anxiety of performance. I think with a bigger cast it is always difficult to hit a perfect performance. However, overall the solo performances were so strong, all of the spoken-word monologues held such an impact, and they were beautifully crafted, directed and acted.
I found myself watching an audience member opposite me at times, she was gasping and grimacing and even shedding a tear, and I cannot describe the experience of Hear Me Now in any other way. It was such a reactionary piece and for that reason, the final speech which brought up the charity called United Borders felt meaningful rather than a ‘plug’. The performance makes you want to listen to, literally, hear them now and I hope, will inspire you to help.
Recommended Drink: For Hear Me Now playwright Mya Onwugbonu herself recommended a Wray & Nephew Rum to pair with the show, “it gives you a warm feeling but is hard to swallow”. Read her interview with us here.
Performances of Hear Me Now have now concluded at VAULT Festival now. Keep up with Burnt Orange Theatre here for future showings.