hair head

in the hair teepee

Dark and Lovely

Birmingham Rep Door

****

SELINA Thompson is a black British woman. She has a desire to share her life stories with reactions to culture, history and identity on the most accessible level.

Through her art, Thomson hopes to give an analytical approach to hair in specific cultures as she explores the Black British Female identity through the avenue of hair.

Weaved with research and personal exploration, she analyses the bold and questionable statement that ‘hair is just hair’ and what hair means to women of today.

Having seen Thomson’s previous work, I had an idea of what was to be expected from this show. I was wrong. Thompson has a unique and enchanting way of making everyone in the audience feel as welcome as possible.

We were greeted with a warm ‘hello’ as we were invited to explore the interactive set, an enormous mound of hair and weave in the middle of the space. The performanceSelina Thompson was a promenade piece and for some audience members, this may be an unnerving experience but Thomson immediately dispelled any fears by encouraging us walk wherever we liked and explore every inch of the space.

Thomson herself is a performance artist. Her method of presenting what she has learned within the creative process is something that is wondrously imaginative and perhaps not seen before. Her delivery is open and friendly, and almost gives the sense that she might as well have been talking to a group of familiar friends in a social location.

Selina Thompson having a . . . big hair day.

This made the audience feel incredibly relaxed within her presence and sometimes it was hard to believe that Thomson was performing.

On multiple occasions throughout the piece, audience members would talk directly to her, asking questions and recalling their own life experiences of their past with hair and she greeted this with open arms, happy to receive enthusiastic contributions.

It could be said that the performance was merely a continuation of Thomson’s creative process and the audience were adding to the experiences from her research.

Thomson fuelled her performance with that research and stories. A particularly powerful and intimate moment was when she invited us into her mounded set, which became a small den to house us all.

With the audience snuggled inside the small and intimate space she recalled stories of the part that hair played in her childhood, talking about her mother untangling her hair and showing us pictures of various hairstyles from the past.

This was when the audience contributed most. Nods of recognition and familiar giggles were seen all around as they related to Thompson’s stories. In her scene of telling us about the past, hair was made into a universal commodity and united the audience. The atmosphere of nostalgia was thick within the tumble weave and Thompson created vivid images when she asked an audience member to take on the role of her mother.

The willing audience member was told to massage Thomson’s head and untangle her hair as the scene evolved. I also played my part in this performance, I was asked to make a hair care product of butters and oils that Thompson would later use on her hair.

Thompson also has a great talent for the spoken word. When she is not talking to us directly, Thomson delivers poetically charged and culturally engaging speeches, talking to us about the significance of hair and what it means to the Black British Female of today. This shows the audience the significance of hair and its importance within British society today.

Thomson is a delight to watch and creates an atmosphere of inclusion throughout the piece, perhaps this is because she stated that she struggled to feel included in different communities throughout her adult life. Her analytical approach to a cultural identity is integral to the performance, letting the audience know that hair is so much more than ‘just hair’.

To 14-11-15

Elizabeth Halpin

11-11-15 

Contents page Rep Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre