Kema Sikazwe, actor, writer, singer and self-proclaimed ‘rising star’, tells us his difficult coming-of-age story. It’s an interesting one, full of misfortune and pain. Mixed with his own music, Sikazwe hopes to inspire us with his autobiographical piece about gaining self-belief and over coming adversity.
Sikazwe struts onto a dark, small stage. It’s lit up by a series of LED lights that change colour according to subject matter. Like a music video from Kanye West’s early career. The music bumps through the speakers as Sikazwe jumps around the space singing into a microphone. This was more like a hip hop gig rather than an evening of theatre.
Sikazwe was three when his family moved from Zambia to Newcastle’s West End. His lyrics encapsulate his feeling of being misplaced, not fitting in and becoming lost. We can all connect with this loss of self, but none so much as the people stretched between two cultures, two countries, and two homes.
Just as I began to wonder if this was purely a musical production, the lights changed and finally Sikazwe could talk directly to us. I breathed a sigh of relief. These sections I loved. How he struggled with the Geordie accent, his mother’s scolding voice and even jokingly adapting to his Scottish audience. In these moments I believe we saw the real Sikazwe.
However, although his lyrics were clear and repetitive, I could not see an emotional connection between the performance and the personal material. His story is full of heartbreak and difficulties I could never understand: being called a ‘dirty immigrant’, the loss of a parent, and a deep rage for his injustices. I was told this but did not see any of this raw emotion on stage. A performance that had been polished down so hard, authenticity was hard to find. I saw Sikazwe hide behind a showman persona and push for tears when the script suggested them.
If you are looking for a raw, unflinching look at urban life, like 8 Mile or Straight Outta Compton, Shine is unfortunately lacking the emotional connection that it needs to succeed.
PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre