• Dress Circle Reviews

Essentially Black Review

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

This was the first play we’ve seen at the Camden Fringe this year and was a great way to kick off the festival.

The story centres on Jess and Lydia, non-white Oxford university students campaigning to have the statue of slave owner Cecil Rhodes removed from the university. Early in if felt like it was going through old comments on race without offering anything new but quickly dug a lot deeper and found the real heart of the story. For Jess, having both a white and a black parent it’s claimed life is easier for her but she ends up struggling in more ways as her identity is constantly attacked. The play doesn’t offer easy answers, nor does it try to and is all the better for it. But it will get people talking, as art is meant to do.

The play is engaging from the start. It is well written with realistic dialogue and starts off with many laugh out loud moments whilst still dealing with a difficult and important story. In the advertising they called it unflinching which I disagree with as it could be stronger at times, but as a debut play is impressive. With great direction by Caroline Yu that thinks about the message they want to convey it really packs a punch.

The cast were strong with the portrayal of Jess by Naomi Denny (who also write the play) being a standout. She was a well thought out fully believable character played with sensitivity.

It has plenty of scope to expand to a 2 hour play. Given it was only an hour they were correctly focused on one specific story. But I would like to see the characters and relationships explored more as I think they have a lot more to say.

You just have until August 4th to see this. Tickets here

Rating: 4 star ⭐️


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