Nina, a show devised and performed by Olivier Award-nominated actress Josette Bushell-Mingo, weaves together the tales of Nina Simone’s life with the more contemporary experiences of Bushell-Mingo. Receiving a standing ovation at this sold out show, this powerful performance is well-received, and admired by the audience. Showcasing her strength in singing, Bushell-Mingo also surprises us whilst singing Simone classics such as Sinnerman, Feeling Good and Mississippi God Damn.
The show begins with Josette almost channelling Nina, setting the background to her life in a spoken word style of narrative that’s poetic and affecting. Backed by the brilliant Shapor Bastansiar on piano, Shaney Forbes on drums and Jair-Rohm Parker Wells on bass, a wonderful lounge setting is created to lay the path for her expressive set.
Touching upon the sixties civil rights movement, she meanders through thoughts, debating how those efforts seem to have failed to prevent the struggles of today. Naming the likes of Stephen Lawrence, Bushell-Mingo effectively highlights many of the prevailing issues that accompany being black in western society still today. Drawing upon story and song to give an evocative show, she reflects on Nina Simone as an extraordinary artist pushing for freedom who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment and love through a wonderful back-catalogue of music.
Not only is this a provocatively bold show (how many would have the audacity to step into the shoes of groundbreaking Nina Simone?) it’s one executed with class and integrity. Bushell-Mingo’s renditions of Feeling Good and Sinnerman arouse the crowd, winning spirited applause. She, however, not only hits you with her stunning vocals but also with her vehement commitment to social justice; we are reminded that we’re still fighting for the fact that Black Lives Matter.
Powerful, impacting, overwhelming, it’s impossible to sit through this show without feeling livid or not click your fingers, as she fuses the classical Bach with the funk of Kool and the Gang. A beautiful, affecting performance, I suggest you take your rear to the Traverse for this one.
Photos by Andrew Ness
Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone runs until 12th August at the Traverse Theatre, various times.