Theatre review: Pink Lemonade, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

Combining dance and spoken word, Mika Johnson’s dynamic, witty and moving solo show is about an affair that starts out sweet but leaves a sour taste.

Mika Johnson dances and rhymes in Pink Lemonade, a show about love and heartache

Pink Lemonade, Assembly Roxy * * * *

But while Pink Lemonade is centred around deeply personal relationships, it uses intimate feelings to powerfully illuminate numerous underrepresented aspects of contemporary life related to race, class, gender and sexuality.

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When you’re a trans-masculine non-binary person of colour, after all, the personal and the political are impossible to disentangle.

Johnson’s story is based around two bad romances. The main one, the one that hurts the most, “this damn seed you planted in me”, is an off-again-on-again affair with Simi, who works in the same bar, clearly shares a powerful mutual attraction but keeps insisting she isn’t a lesbian.

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And all the while, Mika has self-doubts too. Developing that masculine “sexualised swagger” feels more authentic than femininity but is it another kind of act – even one that contributes to their own racial objectification? “Do we ever stop performing?”

Pink Lemonade deftly balances a range of formal techniques against a black-box set offset by pink. Johnson humorously and charismatically conveys complex feelings and situations though poetic spoken-word material, including lip-synching to interviews, and thoughtful dance movement.

Simi’s ex, for instance, “a waste man throwing his weight around”, gets some cleverly absurd taking-up-space moves. The show elegantly uses personal experience to expose some of the big social structures that shape and constrain people’s lives, while also highlighting the importance of personal responsibility in the spaces where individuals do have agency. The story’s hope lies in Johnson’s growth toward a position of critical self-awareness as they face a mostly crappy world with a stronger sense of their own identity, desires and value.

BEN WALTERS

Until 25 August