Nina: A Story About Me and Nina Simone Review | The Lowry | Manchester

January 30, 2018

Talking about a revolution


Josette Bushell-Mingo is a London born, Swedish based singer and Laurence Olivier Award-nominated actress (for the role of Rafiki in The Lion King). Against a tasselled silver backdrop in the Lowry’s intimate Quays Theatre, she navigates through a personal and political message of hope.


Beginning with Revolution, renditions of Nina Simone’s classics, Feeling Good, and Ain’t Got No (I Got Life) are interlinked with accounts of Josette’s life. Layering the show with ten of Simone’s tracks, the connection is one that gives her work purpose and inspires resistance. Asking how we make sense of the racism of the past and continue to tolerate injustices.


Singing Mississippi Goddam, a political protest song written in response to the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers (1963) and the 16th Street African American Baptist Church bombing that killed four children. Simone’s lyrical resurgence is mixed with images of violence and police brutality against black bodies. Mississippi Goddam was banned in several Southern states, with boxes of the single returned by stations broken in half. Here, Josette emphasises what progress has been made, inserting numerous new states at the songs end.  


Here the audience is also put under the spotlight during parts of Josette’s forceful show. Raising the house lights, she scolds the audience out of complacency. The show is not needlessly hostile, but her language is meant to shock. As high-powered racists are once again emboldened by the likes of Brexit and the Trump administration, she amplifies why rhetoric matters. Challenging biases in a way that shifts the audience into an awakening. It is an uncomfortable conversation to have, and the atmosphere feels tense, but this hopefully brings about empathy and understanding for how minorities are often treated as second-class citizens.


Referencing the Black Lives Matter movement, Josette frustration is that this movement is needed in 2018. The plight of minorities remains far from the average Brits daily conscious and Josette’s performance allows audiences to see the issue personalised.  


Commanding the stage throughout the 90-minute show, Josette is spirited and entertaining. The music constructs a compelling narrative alongside her own life story and Josette has the ability to keep her audience both uncomfortable and inspired. Shaped around empowerment, this performance is energising, poignant and powerful. The finale, Revolution bursts with emotion, ending the show as she began it.




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