Queens of Sheba: A Review

The program for Queens of Sheba features a quote “Don’t ask me where I’m from. I will say I am a mix, of both racism and sexism- they lay equally on my skin.” This brilliant four woman play explores the real life repercussions of misogynoir. It is the brilliant debut by Jessica L Hagan, London born writer who previously published a book by the same name. The play is truly unique. Adapted by Ryan Calais Cameron for stage; it features four nameless young black women, following the loose narrative of them embarking on a night out and being refused entry from a club for being, “too black.” They detail multiple micro-aggressions each of the women have faced; in the workplace, in school, and in relationships.

The actresses are incredible. The play is one act; an hour long, but the emotion sustained throughout is so powerful it feels as though you’ve had the education of a lifetime. The most important moment comes when for 2-3 minutes the women stand crying. When was the last time you saw four dark skinned women cry? The raw exhaustion of carrying themselves in this world as black women is encapsulated perfectly in those silent moments. They stare into the audience head on- as if taking ownership of their pain and challenging us: will you deny me of this?

It is wrong however to say the play is comprised only of pain; the actresses dance and sing throughout- and there is humour laced through the performance. The funniest moment has to be each girl portraying four different young men that approach in them in the club; each throwing up gun signs and swaggering in a gait seen too often on the top floors of SWX. But the underlying message of the play is unity; it begins with one actresses staring at her reflection in the mirror and crying; then her three friends join her- wipe her tears and make her smile with calls of “I will survive.” This is the message of the play; that together, we as women are resilient, and powerful and not only survive but thrive.

This play is a cultural moment; it is a voice to what many young women experience every day. The play is based on a real event- when in 2015 London nightclub Dstrkt was exposed as banning dark skinned, and overweight women from their club as policy. Queens of Sheba is pain made palpable. But most importantly it is a record. Hagan anthologises her own experiences; of dating, of existing in Britain as a young black woman. It is uncomfortable [as a glance to any of the male or white faces in the audience could tell you] but it is so necessary in this time and age. When our Prime Minister views us as “watermelon smiles”- Hagan turns to him and says no. We are multi-faceted individuals and our experiences have worth. That is the power of her play.

The book is available to buy from Amazon and is definitely worth a read- check it out here; https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Sheba-Oberon-Modern-Plays/dp/1786825104