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As Brixton House prepares to open in Spring 2021, it continues in lockdown mode with the release of Grey, an Ovalhouse performance from July 2019. Writer and performer Koko Brown returns, delving into mental health issues using her signature style of poetry, song and live vocal looping with the added bonus of dynamic BSL accompaniment from Sapphire Joy.

Creating a more spacious stage set, designer Emily Harwood also adds striking large paper birds hanging from the ceiling as Koko and Sapphire welcome the audience to their clubhouse to explore their feelings. Elaborate lighting design from Martha Godfrey reinforces the changes in tone as the performers confront notions of happy and sad. Sometimes playing off each other and sometimes moving in sync, sequences start with a childlike energy which morphs into wry humour and bleak stats. There is a pulsating musicality to each aspect of the performance as director Nicholai La Barrie maintains a well measured pace.

Vocal loops add a gentle soundtrack to smart raps interrogating the fragility of mental identity. Addressing the repetition of endless empty self-help mottos and the unpleasant side effects of Citalopram, Koko weaves in deeply personal experiences. Sapphire is at the heart of the action, combining sign language with dance to give each scene an extra dimension. As they break down the definitions of strong, independent, black woman, the strength of the writing shines through. This is a thoughtful piece which delves into difficult territory, addressing the past and present of a human psyche with frankness and enthusiasm.

★★★★

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