The blurb for this show in short said it was about Polar Bears and tackling issues of race. Intrigued? I certainly was.
We entered the space to find a Polar Bear (Jamal in costume) asleep amongst strewn chicken bones. The use of fried chicken throughout the piece was a simple device that spoke to me about internalized and economic racism amongst the black community. For me the use of the animal costume and how the piece transpired cleverly depicted the de-humanization, scopophilic nature and exoticism society holds or has held of the black male body. This made me feel really uncomfortable at times, which I think was important for this piece.
During the Q&A at the end, Harewood said his aim was to bring everyone on one level, which definitely worked. It allowed us as an audience to observe our behaviour through game playing and highlighted the politeness and helpfulness but also the savagery and competitiveness of humanity. On another level it inspired me to think about the psychology of the audience when asked to take part in the performance, the concept of groupthink and conformity were really scrutinized here.
Interestingly Jamal kept apologizing when the audience gave feedback. I believe this may have still been part of the piece, as he could be (SARCASTICALLY) apologizing for causing white guilt syndrome. Where white members of the audience feel guilty about racism within our society but saying they feel guilty absolves them of any responsibility in the fight against racism and unity as a whole.
I think this piece was brave and strong on so many levels and believe you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t then you’re ‘Privileged’!
By Leah Francis