#13 ~ What’s Your Back Story: Lady in Purple

‘My love is too sanctified, to have thrown back in my face!’

Image by Natalie KeeneyOf all the lines in the play, Lolia Etomi’s delivery of those 12 words pretty much sold the Cambridge production. On opening night what had been initially a very limp line became a gospel raising hallelujah inciting preach, which increased in intensity every night, until weaves were shaking and hands were waving to rapturous applause and genuine A-MEN SISTA’s for our November finale.

The Lady in Purple is one of those roles which could easily be dismissed, yet as I’ve been working with Etomi over the past 3 weeks an excitement, a strength has begun to ooze through. Made infamous for forgetting a stage entrance during the Cambridge production (she was snacking on some chicken mid show), Lolia Etomi is a stunning young woman with a cheeky smile, a degree in theology and the ability to bring the fun and the realism when things get a bit too ‘serious’.

Her main poem, Sechita, is a mystical, mythic conjuring of ancient spirits and forgotten empires. Spanning between a present day biker bar and the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, the poem uses the demise of a stripper to illustrate the degradation of the black race. Presented as a ‘goddess’, she is reduced to having coins thrown at her thighs as she dances on stage in an alcohol fuelled room, reeking with lust, desire and desolate despair.

Complimented by Nicole Qwamina’s evocative choreography which literally conjures the spirit of dance onto the stage, Etomi’s voice paints pictures across a black canvas, taking her audience from the carnival in natchez to the red garters that are ‘gin stained and itchy on her thigh’. Image by Joseph Mambwe

In contrast Pyramid tells the story of cheating and friendship. When we returned to the poem, Etomi refused to believe that if your friends cheated on you that  they were friends. It was a hard one to run by – what kind of foolishness, how can that be? But in time the poem developed, it questioned the meaning of sisterhood and also desire.

‘he was what they all wanted’

The desire to be affirmed and loved in a sexual way verse the desire to be affirmed and loved in a familial way can be a conflicting scenario. What Pyramid shows its audience is the deep-rooted bonding between women, that need for female solidarity.

A dancer and an actress, Etomi is slowly stepping into her character’s skin and finding these women’s voices. Keep on the look out for how her character develops and watch her interview here

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