On August 9th 2014, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, just fifteen minutes from St Louis where tonight’s show’s protagonist has gone for “adventure”.
Enrolling at college, Ambrosia, is called an “oreo” – black on the outside and white on the inside. Having been brought up in a middle class environment where her parents believe firmly in the letter of the law and have full respect for the nation’s police service, she is shocked to discover that the Black Lives Matter movement is far more important than she could ever have imagined.
Apphia Campbell, both playwright and solo performer, juxtaposes Ambrosia’s narrative with the true story and struggles of Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and convicted of killing a white police officer in 1973, despite medical evidence suggesting her innocence. She escaped prison and has since been living in exile in Cuba. She has been listed on the FBI’s most wanted list since 2013.
Woke then tells the story of the struggles black people have faced in the United States but also, worryingly, how it is still going on today.
There is a raw quality to Campbell’s performance which only adds to the importance of the message and as Ambrosia’s eyes are opened to what is going on so too are the audiences.
A word too for Campbell’s wonderful voice which is at times hopeful, at times haunting, and used to great effect to further capture the audience.
It is an impressive feat to put on such a powerful show alone but this is such an important issue and has such opportunity to make big impact that perhaps a larger ensemble and some better thought-out props (the few used have no obvious connection to the storyline) could propel Woke still further.