Princess is a “cheeky 10-year-old with a plan to win the Weston-super-Mare Beauty Contest. Trouble is, her mum is busy working several jobs, her brother, a budding photographers, won’t even take her picture and then – The Hustler returns.
In 1963 Bristol, as Black British Civil Rights campaigners walk onto the streets, Princess finds out what it really means to be black and beautiful”.
This brand new production is the “second national tour born from Revolution Mix – an Eclipse movement that is spearheading the largest ever delivery of new Black British Stories” and follows last year’s sell-out production of Black Men Walking.
Reading the synopsis you would be forgiven for assuming that the bus boycott would be the primary focus of this play. However in reality this new production offers an eye-opening look into the life of an everyday black family living in 1960’s Bristol. The family are not only living with everyday family drama and heart-ache, but they also have to live in a city full of shockingly casual racism.
The first part of the show seems to be told through the innocent and sheltered eyes of 10-year-old Princess. We listen to her retelling racist comments from teachers, we watch her cry over discrimination from her friends and and yet she seems oblivious in her daydream. However as the production proceeds we see her age beyond her years and we have to watch as this happy and dream-filled girl begins to recognise the world around her and begins to question her own beauty.
With so many different sub-plots running simultaneously I couldn’t help but feel as though the production struggled to land on one coherent story. Of course we have the bus boycott, but we also have snippets of the story of Mavis and Wendell’s past life, we have snippets of the story from Wendell and Lorna’s life in Liverpool, we have hints towards Mavis’ multiple jobs, and we of course have Princess’s beauty contest dreams, but we never seem to reach a conclusion for many of these topics. Instead I couldn’t help but feel as though we were leaving the studio with so many unanswered questions still hanging in the air.
Despite tackling some incredibly difficult topics and showing just how ugly society could be, Princess & The Hustler is a celebration of being black, beautiful and unique.
This is a wonderful show for anybody who is struggling to accept their differences and to see their own beauty.
Princess and the Hustler will continue to run at the Bristol Old Vic till Saturday 23rd February. It will then travel across the country on tour. For more information head to the official Bristol Old Vic website or the official Eclipse website.
Review Date: 14/02/2019
Cast: Kudzai Sitima, Donna Berlin, Fode Simbo, Seun Shote, Jade Yourell, Emily Burnett and Romayne Andrews.
Images courtesy of The Bristol Old Vic.