Yvette at Bush Theatre
Yvette is a one-woman show written and performed by Urielle Klein-Mekongo, concerning the eponymous 13-year-old girl. Evie is trying to navigate her world of a strict and demanding mother, puberty and a harsh school environment of bullies, fickle friends and premature hyper-sexuality. The character starts with youthful exuberance, dancing in a traditional African style, proud of herself. Klein-Mekongo uses layers of her voice and body percussion on a loop to create an immersive sound.
Throughout the songs and the protagonist’s rhapsodising about her crush, the lights glitch and the music stops; Evie counts to five above the crackling static, hinting at some darker trauma yet to unfold. “You’re trying to make me talk about it. I don’t want to.”
The object of the teenager’s first passion is Lewis, a friend who her mother disapproves of due to seeing his brother dealing drugs around the estate they live on. The differences in development are illustrated in a rendition of Lewis rapping and Evie singing about Pokémon; his rap quickly turns sexual, while her song is more innocent. She wants to lose her virginity to Lewis, but there is an excruciating turn of events at his party, which shakes her confidence fundamentally. After this, her “uncle” offers her queasy comfort and we start to see what the light glitches are about.
Yvette is based on a true story and that is palpable. The piece is so raw and personal that it can feel an uncomfortable watch. The “uncle’s” refrain of “You’re beautiful. You’re safe. Take off your pants. Open your legs. I love you” is haunting.
It is a committed performance; there is a lot of variety from just one performer: rap, song, dance, acting each character distinctly. The play is tinged throughout with the deep sadness of a stolen childhood but ends on a defiant roar of a song, where Klein-Mekongo really lets free her voice, and it ultimately feels uplifting.
Photo: Kaya Stanley-Money
Yvette is at Bush Theatre from 7th May until 4th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Yvette here: