Review of Half Breed at Soho Theatre

Soho Theatre Half Breed – Photo by Richard Davenport
Soho Theatre Half Breed – Photo by Richard Davenport
Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Developed in conjunction with the Soho Theatre and Talawa First, Natasha Marshall’s Half Breed is a sensitive exploration of tough-to-discuss issues – where racism and class intersect to create struggle, and how provincialism damages inclusivity.  All this is explored through the character of Jazmin. It’s a powerful hour-long monologue about a teenager struggling with her own identity in a small West Country town, where she is relentlessly
reminded of her ‘otherness’, though she has been raised by her white grandmother – in circumstances that should have called for inclusion. She describes herself as “that mixed raced kid, like 50/50, on the fence, lukewarm, in-between maybe.” Confusion about the present, about her own status in a community, only leads to more confusion about the future.

Marshall moves seamlessly from character to character, evoking the best friend, the racist boyfriend, the police, Jazmin’s grandmother, and achieving a kind of flow that is a pleasure to watch. Directed by Miranda Cromwell, the production is spare but effective. All we need is the dynamism of Marshall’s performance.

The evocation of her best friend is particularly compelling, but the writing of the other supporting characters does veer into caricature at times, and the intensity of this hour does make some of the more uplifting sections feel jarring (and perhaps a little cheesy).

Nevertheless, the writing is at its best in the sections of verse, the spoken word origins of this piece coming to light. Marshall delivers moments of peak poetry and tension with incredible grace and fervour, in equal measure. Despite sitting right next to a woman determined to check her phone every ten minutes, nothing detracts from the stage.

Marshall’s extraordinary physical performance is so detailed – her very breath becomes substantial, poignant, lending the space her electricity. There aren’t any props, there aren’t very many accents, it’s just one talented performer on a stage. Natasha Marshall is a total joy to watch, and the story itself remains an important one.

4 Stars

Review by Christina Carè Calgaro

‘I am that mixed raced kid, like 50/50, on the fence, lukewarm, in-between maybe. Trust me, around here I’m about as black as it goes…’
Jazmin feels different. She doesn’t want to stay in the village. She doesn’t want to have a baby. She doesn’t want to laugh at racist jokes in the local pub. She’s got to get out.

Developed by Talawa Theatre Company and Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab, this is a partly autobiographical dark comedy about finding your voice. Written and performed by Alfred Fagon Award and Soho Young Writers’ Award 2016 shortlisted writer Natasha Marshall.

Age Recommendation: 14+
Running Time: Approx 60mins
Booking to 30th September 2017