After being turned away from a nightclub for being “too black“, four women joined together in a sisterhood of solidarity to tell their stories of the casual racism, oppression, and misogyny that they face every day. A collaboration between Nouveau Riché and Omnibus Theatre, Queens of Sheba brings their experiences to the stage, combining spoken word with song and dance to create an explosive piece of theatre that is engaging, laced with humour, and hugely empowering.
The four Queens are all wonderfully skilled at delivering the powerful message behind their show through innovative methods. Songs play a huge part in this, and are delightfully injected into the show. They are all iconic songs by Black women, such as Aretha Franklin’s Respect and I Say A Little Prayer for You, and Diana Ross and The Supremes’ Aint No Mountain High Enough.
As well the stunning vocals from the Queens, these song numbers are bursting with energy, with deliberately exaggerated dance moves, and are incredibly entertaining. But they also aptly raise serious issues, for example, that there aint no mountain high enough because “Black women keep rising” above prejudice and intolerance.
It still astonishes me that people of colour continue to face racism in every aspect of their lives, from their hair styles right through to the clothes they wear. The Queens highlight white privilege by showing the casual racism that they encounter daily. When meeting new people, particularly in the workplace, they are sick to death of being asked “Where are you really from?” and “Can I touch your hair?”. Audible groans of agreement from the audience show that this racism is commonplace. Their answer is repeated throughout the performance.
“I am a mix of both racism and sexism – they lay equally on my skin”.
The Queens hilariously take you through a disastrous date with a white man who “only ever dates exotic women“. His micro-aggressive insults and chat up lines are cringe-worthy. Sadly this sexism and racism is still prevalent in today’s society. However, the Queens deftly manage to interject comedy into this awful scenario by depicting the man as a caricature figure, with an inflated ego, and ridiculous swagger. The women resourcefully retaliate, stating that they are really from London, and the most exotic thing there is the multipack of Sunpride in the shops, before launching into a rap about white misogynistic privilege, complete with beat boxing.
“This is my world. This is my reality”
It is not just white privilege that comes under fire from the Queens. Their greatest oppressors are the Black musicians, like Drake, who make music that sexually objectifies and exploits women. Feeling profound guilt for liking hip hop, the Queens disclose that “I am in love with my abuser“. This is a genre of music that seemingly hates women. “The lyrics tear me down“. It is eye-opening to see how sexism is ingrained into the very fabric of contemporary culture.
In the final act of Queens of Sheba, emotions erupt and the Queens present an impassioned speech of defiance that is hugely uplifting and empowering, hoping for a world where you are no longer “punished for your pigmentation“, a world where people can look beyond hues of skin and accept someone for the person they are.
Queens of Sheba provides a strong tonic for these increasingly divisive times we live in, as four extraordinary Black women deliver an inspirational message of unity and solidarity in the face of racism and sexism.
“We are queens, and we don’t need you to crown us”.