Theatre Review: Nightclubbing, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Rachael Young’s pumping, provocative celebration of the power of black women is brought to the Fringe with the support of the inaugural Eclipse Award

Rachael Youngs Nightclubbing is a celebration of the power of black women.
Rachael Youngs Nightclubbing is a celebration of the power of black women.

Nightclubbing, Summerhall, Edinburgh ****

The award aims to help boundary-pushing black artists get to Edinburgh, also supporting last year’s show, Out, which is reprised in the second half of the Fringe.

Entering the darkened space, we watch Young emerge from an asteroid, while musicians Mwen Rukandema and Leisha Thomas conjure, between them, a throbbing electronic soundtrack. Naomi Kuyck-Cohen’s set and costume design is Afrofuturism to the hilt, sci-fi inspired and brimming with sass.

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Black women today, Young points out, have read Audre Lord and Zadie Smith. They have the kind of radar which can read trouble at 20 paces, and defence shields which can be ‘switched on’ in a fraction of a second. They are superwomen, yet they are cursed either to be invisible or hypervisible - to be treated as objects of suspicion, or simply ignored.

Young is a powerful presence, combining strength and vulnerability. Her carefully honed words, even if occasionally drowned out by the soundtrack, range from a tongue-in-cheek litany of apologies (“I’m sorry for breathing, I’m sorry for laughing too loud, I’m sorry for moving in next door”) to a pulsing incantatory celebration. It’s too bad the audience didn’t take up the exhortation to dance themselves but perhaps, at 3.45pm, it is simply too early in the day.

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Until 11 August