Apphia Campbell’s show Black is the Color of My Voice, based on the life and works of Nina Simone, comes to digital theatre. This version was recorded this summer at Wilton’s Music Hall and is presented by Seabright Productions.
I first came across this show at the Watermans Theatre, when it was paired with Soul Sessions, a showcase of Simone’s songs. However, as a standalone show, it retains considerable power, and watching again just after I viewed the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? I feel I have even more understanding of this gifted pianist who became both ‘the High Priestess of Soul’ and a noted civil rights activist.
As well as crafting the story of ‘Mina Bordeaux’, the name she gives her character here, Campbell also performs a large number of Simone’s best known works, including I Put A Spell On You, Mississippi Goddamn and Feelin’ Good.
Directed by Arran Hawkins and Nate Jacobs, with lighting by Clancy Flynn and sound by Tom Lishman, this is a piece which does justice to the subject. It delves into her childhood, romantic relationships, and thirst for fame. Her emotional instability is also referenced: this is a lady who had an uneasy relationship with being looked upon and written about.
Several years after first creating the show, Campbell has developed a deep affinity with Simone, weaving in real aspects of her life into this work of fiction. Mina/Nina is complex, talented, and far from content – echoed by watching footage of the real Simone elsewhere.
In the songs, often reimagined to suit the narrative, a fine emotional connection with the material is explored, and in this filmedversion, close-up camera work at key points makes this show as effective as it was in person. This is a stunning performance, captured with love and understanding.
You can view Black is the Color of My Voice on stream.theatre until 18 July: tickets available here.