Koko Brown’s solo show about the experience of being mixed race, the privilege that comes with it, and how that fits into race relations today, has a lot to discuss in 45 minutes. Brown combines spoken word and vocal looping in WHITE which she is performing at The Pleasance.
The progression of the show follows Brown’s attitudes towards her racial background throughout her life; from subconsciously rejecting her roots to accepting and taking pride in them. She repeats the phrase “I always knew what I was” throughout the show, emphasising her determination to be confident in herself and how she fits into the world. This is in spite of her uncertainty, as she is constantly being fed so many mixed messages from the people around her and the media. This is embodied the heavy beats and palpable internal conflict of “Hey Kid Get Your Gun”.
She remains a joyous stage presence even while discussing these heavy topics. In one of her first songs, “Half of You”, she sings and speaks about the virtues she inherited from her parents, without referencing their race, highlighting her love for them. Brown has such a casual confidence, and speaks so naturally that when the rhymes fall perfectly into place it is though it is entirely by accident.
Equally, later in the performances the importance of what she is singing is felt by the audience. She performs a spoken word section on discovering the Black Lives Matter movement, and the sudden weight she felt about belonging to a culture that had so much artistic vibrancy but that was so persecuted. The urgency of her emotion is pressed onto the audience and is incredibly moving.
Brown’s vocal looping (live singing and mixing) is intelligently constructed, and as she mixes she smiles as though satisfied with her creation and what she is trying to say. Her songs have so many influences, such as one on mixed race privilege that includes elements from both gospel choirs with a musical theatre. She says she wanted to make an “important” show, “but I ended up just making a show about me”. It might be seen as a little self-indulgent as a show, but for such a talented performer and the given time frame it works perfectly. In that sense, it is important for precisely that reason, emphasising humanity, individuality, and complexity of emotion in regards to race.