Dazed New World Festival 2020: Call Me by My Name
The notion of “comfort” in our society either exists in abundance or is completely lacking since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Some take comfort in being able to sit at home, forced to do nothing, whilst others fear the future, debt and global uncertainty. In Call Me by My Name the word means something else to our protagonist, whose name is Comfort. It is something she seeks in her daily life – in her own skin, in being respected as a person regardless of her race, in dating someone new.
Through a series of mixed media pieces, ranging from monologues and spoken word to text message chains and voice notes, we find government worker Comfort Tshabalala (Nicole Botha) at a point where racial prejudice is impinging on several aspects of her life. Beginning with an intense racist phone call, in which she is unjustly fired from her position, a sequence of events unfolds that brings her to consider the effect of racism and the Black Lives Matter movement on British youth.
As she navigates through the sudden change in her career trajectory, Comfort begins seeing a white man (Joseph O’Gorman) whom she meets on Tinder; after their first date she realises he is in fact the racist who insulted her over the phone and brought about the loss of her job. At the beginning of the play, viewers see the fateful exchange played out with an intensity that evokes feelings of disgust at the blatant prejudice. Later, during the Tinder date, we learn of the man’s xenophobic rationalisation for why he maintains nationalistic ideals, in a provocative monologue that contains sentiments peddled by Donald Trump and All Lives Matter supporters.
Brotha wrote and co-directed Call Me by My Name with Rose Quentin during lockdown as the Black Lives Matter movement began to heat up in the UK. Alongside race, the play also touches upon themes of feminism and female insecurity, particularly for black women fighting societal constructs of the “ideal woman” and prejudice in the dating world.
The performance is an incredible display of the many facets of racism in our society, without coming to any real solutions or conclusions – which is appropriate given we continue to be in the midst of many of these issues. In any case, Call Me by My Name is a fantastic learning experience.
Call Me by My Name is online as part of Dazed New World Festival 2020 from 21st October until 22nd October 2020. For further information or to book visit Applecart Arts’s website here.