Hard-hitting, powerful and genuine: Yvette will both hurt and heal you.
Urielle Klein-Mekongo delivers her powerful one woman play, Yvette, with a huge amount of confidence and strength. Discussing the difficult topics of rape, sexual awakening, race and family – it would be easy to expect Yvette to be a darky depressing play throughout, but this is not the case. Urielle welcomes her audience to this story, soothes you with comedy and a friendly nature whilst gently but purposely sharing the traumatic reality of Yvette, and managing to leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.
Through the clever use of a Capella singing and spoken word, combined with wonderful characterisations of her friends and family, Urielle tells the story of how a young girl begins her journey into womanhood, and the struggles that she has to overcome both in regards to her sex and her race.
Throughout the play, the foreshadowing of Yvette’s traumatic sexual abuse is presented through Yvette experiencing panic attacks, which she can only escape through counting down from five and breathing into the microphone. As the play progresses these attacks continue to get Yvette more worked up and begin to happen more frequently – before Yvette finally reveals what truly happened to her.
The standout moments of the performance for me were when Yvette was both physically and mentally at her most vulnerable, which the audience felt completely involved in with her. During her monologue about blaming her race for her circumstance, Urielle creates the image of bleaching her skin using what appeared to be white paint. It was incredibly harrowing but was also unbelievably powerful and affected the majority of the very small audience instantly. The delicate, but realistic, handling of this topics was very well done, and although it was difficult to watch, I never felt uncomfortable as an audience member.
However Yvette’s interactions with her Uncle were where Klein-Mekongo showed her full creative genius. Characterising a coat stand as her “Uncle” and wearing half of a coat whilst hugging herself to symbolise their physical interaction. It was a beautiful way of presenting the scene and really allowed the audience to witness both characters in that moment.
Although I was initially sceptical about a one woman show depicting such harrowing topics, I now think that Urielle Klein-Mekongo handles the topic almost perfectly and allows the audience to understand her emotional trials as she takes you on this journey.
My only real criticism would be that this show isn’t accessible for a large scale audience. A lot of the power and emotion from this performance came from the intimate closeness of Urielle with her remarkably small audience. In order for such a strong connection to be made like that, I think that level of intimacy is necessary – which obviously limits the capacity that this show is able to perform to. However, if given the opportunity and the time, I think this show could have a lasting impact on a huge amount of people and I applaud Urielle Klein-Mekongo for creating something so human.
By Emily Schofield
Yvette will play at the Bush Theatre from the 21st to the 23rd May. For more information visit: https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/yvette/