“I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It’s weird. Wonderful. Dysmorphic. Utopian. Racist. Real. Rough. Deep. Mind scrambling. I took a good long moment after it ended to just sit and stare blankly at the empty stage rolling over the question, “what did I just see?“
What indeed!? Because there is a lot in Bronx Gothic. Underage sex, rape, paedophilia, colourism, violence and death threats, night terrors, schizophrenia, homosexuality. I doubt I could name them all. Okwui Okpokwasili uses dance, song, prose, and verse to take us on this journey of two, if not more, 11 years old girls, discovering themselves, their bodies, their sexuality, their ability to love and hate in equal fashion and intensity and their power to wreck lives with words.
Okpokwasili takes deep, personal chapters from her childhood and lays them out cerebrally before us in a way that leaves the audience reeling with the concept of what she went through as a child. She herself says, before bringing this piece to the Young Vic, she thought she had done it for the last time ever. Art has the ability to be a healer and a cathartic force. This piece felt like her way of starting to make peace with a part of her life that shaped her, defined her and caused her pain for a very long time. Bronx Gothic revealed layers of truth and sadness in this world I never knew before.
The direction by Peter Born was next generational. He used light, sound, and visuals; blending them together to create a string of consciousness we could follow down into the rabbit hole of Okpokwasili’s mind, safely helping us emerge and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
This dance-theatre piece is still sitting in me for the gravity and the revelatory force of it. My best advice is, leave sense at the door when you go in. Allow yourself to be hypnotised and fall down, down, down into the wonderland of her crafting. Don’t worry, you’ll find sense anew on an elevated level. Just with slightly scrambled brains for a time.
Bronx Gothic runs at the Young Vic until the 29th June 2019. Find out more and book tickets here.