Leeds Playhouse – 11 & 12 November 2021
Reviewed by Sal E Marino
Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s debut play, My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, is filled with riveting dialogue, spiky confrontations and thought-provoking observations about power struggles and racial identity. Brought to us by Red Ladder Theatre with support from Leeds Playhouse and Oldham Coliseum Theatre, My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, focuses on the experiences of 15-year-old Reece and his teacher, Gillian. Brilliantly directed by Dermot Daly, the intricate and complex subtleties of discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, guilt and shame are skilfully explored through testing debates, arguments and head-to-head disputes between these two compelling characters.
Reece (played by the fabulous up-and-coming young actor Jelani D’Aguilar) finds himself being accosted by the police in a most brutal way outside M&S; where Gillian (excellently portrayed by Misha Duncan-Barry), who has just been questioned about shoplifting – sees what has happened – but does nothing. Later on, Reece, angry and desperate, locks them both in a classroom where he interrogates Gillian about her lack of support and what he sees; as a total lack of trust and integrity. What then ensues is; a highly charged excavation of the ingrained institutional prejudice and the complex power dynamics of these two characters, that also delves into gender, generational differences and ‘stereotype’ too.
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is a touchstone in providing a glimpse of the daily, true realities of the racism that exists in the UK today, as we see and hear how Reece and Gillian go about their everyday lives. What goes on underneath the surface is stripped bare as they both share their stories, role-play each other’s views and address the complicated layers of what has created the position they find themselves in today. In the beginning of the play, when Reece is on the floor being violently detained that involves a policeman’s knee digging into his back, one cannot but help but think about the atrocious events that resulted in the death of George Floyd and My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is a stark reminder that we must listen, reflect and take action towards creating what should be ‘a given’: equality for all.
My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, is unique and covers a myriad of important messages, as it takes you on two people’s life journey’s; that involve the most paramount and important issue that the world faces today: racism. Through each others’ eyes and voices they explore each other’s gender, sexuality and generational culture but dig deep into what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes and what they learn is that at times, it’s really tough.
Packed with so many thought provoking and light-bulb moments, My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, is definitely a play to see if you want to advance the way towards equality, by gaining a better understanding into each other’s world’s.