It takes some guts – and no small amount of talent - to write an hour-long monologue and then perform it flawlessly and in character in front of an audience.
Of course, for Michaela Coel, a critically acclaimed poet and writer, being centre stage in the spotlight is no big shakes. For the 25-year-old effortlessly shaves 10 years off her real age to create Tracey Gordon, a feisty 15-year-old schoolgirl in a London comprehensive. She’s all mouth and street-talk but, beneath the wafer-thin exterior, there’s a compassionate and articulate young woman waiting to emerge on the other side of the school gates. Peer group Candice, Fat Lisa, Serafina, Aaron, and Connor are all woven into a vivid tapestry that Tracey paints, mixing humour with the most monstrous aspects of a gritty inner-city existence. Her white-knuckle ride through a catalogue of different characters is nothing short of virtuosic.
Coel clearly knows Tracey inside out and there’s barely a pause for thought in her rapid-fire delivery, detailing the minutest fragments of the teenager’s daily routine from the ritual taunting of the unfortunate Serafina to a clumsy attempt to obtain a morning after pill. The themes it spans are nothing as pedestrian as reality TV and designer labels – sexual assault, violence and bullying all go under Coel’s hyper-sensitive microscope in an intimate, challenging, and mischievous reflection of life in the modern-day educational system.
Che Walker directs an engrossing, engaging and compelling one-woman show that will surely have a life far beyond the festival circuit. Michaela Coel is destined to become a name synonymous with quality writing and stiletto-sharp performance.