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Crowning Glory

Somalia Seaton's play featuring women sharing the trials and tribulations of their hair opened this week at Theatre Royal Stratford East

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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The cast of Crowning Glory
© Sharron Wallace

The controversial topic of how ethnic minority women (and their hair!) are perceived in Western society and the pressure to westernise their appearance is given glorious comic treatment in Somalia Seaton's Crowning Glory.

Featuring a seven-strong female cast including a token white girl - perhaps appropriately referred to as 'Token' - we are shown an insightful glimpse into the dark recesses of identity crisis for women of colour living in Britain, or any other Western society for that matter.

It's a refreshing and topical subject rarely tackled on stage and Seaton uses inventive ways of getting across her message through monologues, sketches and even video clips.

The videos are particularly successful, remaining humorous and serving to break up the proceedings nicely so that we're not pummelled with one stage sequence after another. In the main they are interviews with the public who answer questions about their perception of beauty such as what they see when they look at themselves in the mirror.

An energetic and confident cast also overrides any shortcomings in the script, which occasionally gets lost in overly derogatory language at the expense of subtlety.

Token's (Katie Hayes) sequence, in which her naïve perception of race and culture is a frighteningly accurate picture of clueless white Britain, is drawn out and uncomfortable to the point that you half expect someone to heckle. But it's nevertheless a bold move at shining a light on the cultural ignorance that pervades in much of Western society.

The production also takes pains to represent the different facets of racism, referenced in their names 'Halfbreed' (Allyson Ava-Brown), 'Pickyead' (Toyin Ayedun-Alase), 'Panther' (Lorna Brown), 'Haircomb' (Sheri-An Davis), 'Bal-Ead' (T'Nia Miller) and 'Bounty' (Rebecca Omogbehin).

Crowning Glory is clearly relevant to women of all ages who have experienced racism. From the cruel playground taunts to the everyday undercover racism that is still present in day-to-day life. And in its satirical glance at the ugly side of life we too can learn a thing or two about racial identity no matter what culture, colour or creed.

- Will Stone