🎭 I am not Black
📍 Barons Court Theatre
🎫 PR invite

Written and performed by Akin Wright, ‘I am not Black’ is a coming-of-age story, exploring one man’s plight of growing up in an environment where he was ‘‘too white for the black kids and too white for the white kids”. Directed by Joseph Junkere, this one-man show is funny, powerful and an honest exploration of the black experience.

The story

When Temz Thomas (Akin Wright) is invited by his former school to give a speech to current students, this sparks a trip down memory lane. As he finds an old Blackberry phone, Temz begins to reminisce of his experiences at school. He reveals the microaggressions and casual racism faced during that time and reflects on what it was like to feel as though he didn’t belong.

As Temz dresses in school uniform, he shares what it was like being at a private all-boys school, where he was one of few black students, and made to feel othered. Temz succumbed to the jokes about his race as well as the negative and ridiculous stereotypes about Black people. We also discover the jokes sadly continued outside of school, and in his church community.

My thoughts

Wright incorporates many colloquial phrases and cultural references that were all too familiar to me. Blackberry phones, Channel U, and even the CGP GCSE books sprawled on the floor took me back to my own younger years. The set design was simple but was enough to transport the audience back to Temz’s school days.

Racism is a key theme throughout the play, as well as belonging. It’s tough to hear, but I commend the script for being authentic and not diminishing the experiences many young black kids have faced.

Wright’s storytelling is engaging, and they successfully capture our attention for all 60 minutes. The writing is entertaining, quick-witted, and included so many nostalgic references that made me chuckle (The Blackberry battery hack was such a throwback!). There’s also a nice balance between the humour and the serious nature of the topic.  

I enjoyed the pacing of the show. Even with all the content and backstories, it didn’t feel rushed. There was multi-roleplaying from Wright, as they portrayed the supporting characters in Temz’s life. At times, it was difficult to keep up with the number of characters in the story. Wright did a great job at performing them all and I particularly liked the use of audio during conversations with other characters.  

The second half was the strongest, as we saw even more emotion from our protagonist. Temz lets out pent-up frustrations from the years of casual racism faced by his peers, teachers, and his own community. Under Jinkere’s powerful direction, we see Temz sit in the middle of the stage, lights dimmed, revealing a written wall of racial slurs and microaggressions. This was my standout and such a profound way to echo the stories Temz shared.

In an impassioned poem, Temz rightfully expresses that black people are not a monolith. We are unique. Personally, I am proud there are shows like ‘I Am Not Black’ that have the platform to share our unfiltered stories and experiences.

I am not Black’ is playing at Barons Court Theatre until 4 February. (Although tickets have sold out!)