“Do you think I’m scared?” These are the first words uttered in Natasha Marshall’s semi-autobiographical one-hour monologue. At this point the audience may feel disorientated, however within minutes, they are whisked away to Jaz’s world of anxiety, where “scared” is something she does indeed feel – frequently. Our protagonist is a mixed-race teenager trapped in both an identity struggle and a casually racist West Country village. And so begins a one-woman play where the leading lady athletically flips between a whole village of characters, bringing her personal tale and trials to life without once missing a beat.
The opening remarks are uttered by Jaz’s best friend Brogan, referring to the girl’s upcoming drama school audition in the stereotyped, faraway land of London. Whilst the main character longs to escape her small town, her closest companion is blindly in love with a local lad, and her only ambition is to become a mother. The two are polar opposites but their friendship makes for an intriguing and touching backbone to the narrative, and later piles on the drama when Jaz clashes with Brogan’s racist boyfriend Mitchell. The fact that they are played by the same person – with differing accents and body language – is oddly less noticeable than expected, and is a huge credit to Marshall’s skills as a talented actress.
The performer not only bursts into spoken word poetry with dynamic, natural rhythm, but she has also penned it all herself. Jumping around this internal monologue provides a direct feed into her conflicted stream of consciousness – plus the everyday conversations she includes are equally captivating. The script is powerful and simultaneously unsettling, with Marshall’s breathlessly rapid delivery to match. There’s also some clever integration of a Shakespearean monologue from The Winter’s Tale, not to mention references to EastEnders and Myleene Klass.
Whilst the play’s title may suggest otherwise, racial identity isn’t the sole focus of the drama. The themes of female friendship, societal oppression, finding your voice and the debate of being a bystander versus active racial abuse are all packed into an hour, leading to a bubbling crescendo of emotion. Some characters may be caricatures, but what they represent is still a serious issue today. However, there is a hopeful note about chasing dreams – which is presumably exactly what Marshall is on stage to do as she takes the gripping show on a nationwide tour. Half Breed is one to watch, as it tells a story well worth listening to.
Photo: The Other Richard
Half Breed is at from 16th April until 21st April 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.