As a teen, figuring out who you are is apart of the daily routine. If you’re not questioning yourself about who you are, then you’ll probably find yourself at the receiving end of others questionable opinions about you. Identity is multi-faceted, Natasha Marshall’s Half Breed responds to this complexity.
Subjected to awkward stares and and unwarranted comments uttered under the breath of the local residents, Jazmine dreams of a life beyond her small village. Her time mainly occupied by her best friend who is a force of nature drives many a conversation between the two, Jazmine’s days are spent mainly listening to her exploits and opinions on the world. Marshall’s portrayal of the two friends grips the audience into this close knit world; the feeling of news travelling fast- a constant one. These are two normal girls who’s realities are now the subject of an audience’s gaze, the mundane now magnified, and this is what makes up Half Breed’s charm. It’s refreshing to witness two young female roles, although played by the one performer, showcasing their strength as well as their vulnerability. Marshall’s text meandering from lyrical to anecdotal to converstional explores themes of race, community, relationships and ambition, hence making the production beam with authenticity.
There’s a feeling of Jazmine, who’s reserved and down to earth wanting to find the strength to speak up, like her gragarious and confident friend, and face those brazen enough to air their discriminative views. The smallness of the village serves as a constant reminder of just how close minded the community is. There’s an undercurrent of constant tension between Jazmine and the locals, resulting in an uncomfortableness, Marshall captures this unease well, yet balances this with a comedic lightheartedness courtesy of the dynamic established with her best friend. Marshall writes a piece that questions, Jazmine seeks answers, she’s routinely bombarded with questions relating to her mixed race heritage, this in itself placing her into a box as it defines who she is purely by race when she seeks to be treated like everyone else. This clash between what Jazmine hopes for and old school thinking is silent yet powerful, as an audience member, you root for Jazmine to win.
The audience also root for Jazmine and her best friend to overcome any distractions that could threaten their friendship. Her best friend’s new boyfriend, Mitchell, a vocal and care free local airs exactly what others think, but would only ever dare to utter. His discriminative anecdotes marking him out as the show’s villain. Marshall’s portrayal of Mitchell contributes a contrasting dynamic, arrogant speeches – politician like in confidence – fuel the locals pub going experience, further alienating Jazmine as ‘other’. This is sad to watch as Jazmine’s power is limited against a majority, she finds that she needs to be armoured with answers that she herself doesn’t necessarily know.
Half Breed is a coming of age tale that doesn’t offer answers; rather it serves up an honest take on a young female figuring out who she is, like many of us do. Miranda Cromwell directs a minimal production, devoting the stage to Marshall’s story, further tapping into the show’s authenticity. 4/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Half Breed was shown from Wednesday 18th until Saturday 21st April 2018 at the Soho Theatre. Half Breed is currently on tour, to find out more about the production, visit here…
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