Tag Archives: strength

#11 ~ What’s Your Back Story: Lady in Red

Red1Tasila Banda was the only member of the cast to audition the first time round. When I mentioned I was putting on the play she squealed, before boldly walking up to me and declaring the play was her Bible. I decided to forgive her blasphemy as the pure enthusiasm and excitement that glowed from behind her eyes told me that she was a serious contender. This was what the play needed. People who knew Shange’s work, loved it and would do it a good service.

Tasila Banda is a natural story-teller, and her presence and body awareness made her perfect for the Lady in Red. With her main poem, ‘One’,  about female desire, sexuality, prostitution, fear and the reversal of roles in a relationship, one would expect The Lady in Red to ooze sex appeal. And she does to a certain extent. She is a charmer, a performer, whose morning ritual includes slathering on vaseline till she ‘glitters in heat’.  Into that vaseline she creatively places;

orange butterflies and aqua sequins ensconced between slight bosoms

silk roses darting’ from behind her ear

the passion flower of south west los angeles

meandered down hoover street.

Working with Tasila Banda has led to some of the most rewarding rehearsal . Deeply attached to her performance in Cambridge, when it came to reprising the role in London, initially Banda was adamant about how to present The Lady in Red. Yet there was something more about this sexual, provocative, powerful woman who used  men for her satisfaction. Described as the ‘wrath of women in windows’, a vengeance, a deep pain, lines her words. So came her backstory.

Still  nameless, this woman, who loves other women like Shug Avery loves Celie, is a mother. A teenage mother. Impregnated by the pastor of her small rural town, she scorns religion for its inability to protect her from the sickness of the world. Sent to her grandmother’s during her pregnancy, it is here that the Lady in Red falls in love with the butterflies that, like a literary conceit, continuously flutter throughout her poem. They remind her of the ability to be transformed and the fear of being trapped. IMG_9775

Yet the Lady in Red also contends with what it means to ‘regular’. To be a common black woman.  When her rhinestones, bought from the pound/dollar store, have melted in her bath, when her weave has been removed and her scalp finally gets to breathe, she questions what it means to be beautiful, to be worthy.

Of all the actress I’ve worked with so far, Tasila Banda, though adamant about how she wants to play her character, has been the fastest learner. A slight pause here, an inflection there, a rush of words here and a slow drawl over there, all add colour and shade to her piece. After i’ve coached her through the dynamics once, twice, she returns the next day and has it pretty perfect.

Make sure you keep following the story to see how this sensuous poem evolves.

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#206 ~ One Hundred Words and a Photo : 16

Blood congealed into robust globules, the sheen reminiscent of the violent illumination of rusting iron through the jagged facets of a sanguine sunset. It caked over mottled toes, seeped between peeling skin, and latched bloodthirsty claws into silk wrappings. Poised, elegant and fearless, the cramping arch rolled high into an effortless elongation of the delicately muscled body. Wrapped securely by pale pink hands which melded with the opacity of fresh leggings, layer upon layer increased, built up, stretched and twisted into a muted dance of power and poise. Brute strength throbbed consistently beneath the pale exterior of a graceful aesthetic.

Copyright: Victoria O

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#155 ~ Free Fall into/with Me

Like the rain that pelts these single glazed window panes

The consonant rhyme helping to keep these lines in time

You ask me to free fall

With no cord or bungee support

Off the side of Control-Cliff

Expertly engineered under My high Way

Into an abyss of nothing-ness.

The optimum word in the sentence is trust

The first thought that flashes through my mind

Is that I will bust my ass on the rocks that form

the gorge pool, elaborately covered by the foams of a turquoise plunge pool.

It’s my strength that we are relying on

But these muscles are tired from

Rowing against the tide

Undergoing that long distance ride

Until massages can’t even hide

The distorted form of this bruised and blotchy human side.

My intellectual faculties of comprehension and eloquent expression

Were the tools I used to further my profession.

The basis, the foundation, the Cephas of my self-governed nation

A kingdom of grey matter, over which I am the only Father

And now you say it’s all crumbled to dust

I the Creator must become the Desecrator

Bulldozing through the temple, erasing the remnants

Till it reintegrates into the cycle: from dust to dust.

And instead of that knowledge that sometimes transpired into wisdom

I should return to a distant voice

Overpowered, under-shouted, over roared by the thunder, the lightning, the earthquakes and the ever-present heart that is thumping.

Instead – of course there’s always a stead, a steed of a different breed that will return me to the Foreign Homestead

I should bend my ear, to the faintly heard whisper

and seek to honour a Governor who controls no boarders I can see

No militant lines, raises up no National Boundary Signs

Of this here terra…


…and in giving up my desire

I will find a path that will lead me to the higher realm, design, functioning plan of your regimes prime

goal, inspired

to march through the mire, to a different drum beat, which promises to make this yearning heartbeat

secure, in His ultimate desire.

Well…I’ll try not to make the prospect seem too dire.

In the process, I’ll be she, the one that is attempting to trust in the vision which claims to be, and resolutely is

higher than mine.

The will of the divine.

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#154 ~ A cord of 3 strands

One had a brioche with butter. It lolled on the plate like a baked mushroom, brown and crispy, sweet to the touch, soft to the taste.

The other had an apple Danish. Glazed in sugar, laced with flour, filled with apple syrup, its sticky-sweet sensation printed a sugary outline on the white ceramic.

The last tore into a hazelnut croissant. Dusted with sugar and flour, the crumbled nut topping gave the pastry a slight crunch as frost particles sprinkled the table.

They each had a pink mug, filled with hot chocolate, topped with cocoa powder and stirred with long silver spoons.

In their unique identities there was unity,

Separate, yet joined by the sweet liquor of a warm drink, the cord they formed grew taut with love, prayer and hope; for after all

A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

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#151 ~ Season of Slow Growth

In the beginning the lungs began to hyperventilate before the call was made. Before the joints even flexed, muscles seized and lactic acid pooled spontaneously into the blood stream. Shoulders stretched taut, and the worry vein clawed into the perspiring skin, all before the gun was shot. Capillaries began to drool blood like a baby being burped, and the intestines still rose and fell, like a car jerking round a motorway swerve.

The pain mounted an attack during the peace period, dreams turned into simulators defiantly blurring the lines in their increasing verisimilitude.

That was in the beginning.

As the elephant sidles over to the bore hole, each year glancing at its wrinkled reflection, counting and re-counting the ravine like grooves etched into it’s tough skin; the tusks that protrude from closed lips inch forward, desperate for a drink. It is a slow period of growth, fermentation, the temperatures just right, not to be overripe or rotten, but comfortably wedged between the bottom and the top, a sandwich of perfect measurements.

And in the slow growth of time, when memory is still difficult to distil from the present, one notices –

The lungs barely had to inflate after the call was made.

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#144 ~ Life Lesson No.19

Learn to laugh at your failures. Try not to take yourself too seriously. Remember, you can’t get any lower than the ground – so when you get there, laugh and get back up again.

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