Black is the Color of my Voice is a lyrical exploration of Nina Simone’s life. It’s a hauntingly beautiful 70 minutes in the company of Apphia Campbell who fully embodies the singer. Apphia Campbell created this show and has brought it back to Edinburgh for its 10th anniversary. It felt like a privilege to experience a production that has garnered so many awards and that so many people praise. It deserves every accolade.
Apphia Campbell’s writing avoids giving us a simple, chronological biography and takes us back and forth into Nina Simone’s imagined memories at a traumatic time in her life; after her beloved father has died. Nina pulls out significant objects, letters, clothes etc. from a trunk which triggers the memories and helps them explore their grief, guilt and reflect on the decisions that brought them to this point in their life.
Apphia Campbell brings to life characters from Nina’s life with exquisite characterisations: Using the bed to give her height and enhance the physical movement, Nina’s bible preaching Mother feels so real, she might be in the room with us. Wearing a headband from the trunk, young Nina the ‘wanna-be’ concert pianist, bounces with excitement before us.
Apphia Campbell’s powerful performance compels us to listen, exploring black pride, Nina’s joy in music and dreadful choice of husbands. ‘Black is the Color of my Voice’ gets even better, there is singing and what singing it is. The audience almost took a collective intake of breath in anticipation as the chords from a beloved Nina Simone classic started and then the voice took over. Apphia Campbell really does sing like Nina, with passion and conviction, you only wish it was a full length concert. By the end of the last song, I have to confess to having tears in my eyes.
Apphia Campbell looked shattered by the end and emotionally the audience were too and we all rose to our feet as one. The only drawback with this stunning solo production was the venue: the EICC auditorium feels too large and soulless and I only wish I’d seen ‘Black is the Color of my Voice’ years ago in a more intimate space. If there was a top 10 list of best ever Fringe shows, this production would be on it!