Brighton Fringe: Walk Like A Black Man

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Walk Like A Black Man somehow seems a crassly provocative title for a stand-up show – but for the sort of theatrical, personal monologue that Rafiq Richard presents, it has a more substantial meaning about the search for identity.

For Richard is half-Indian, half-West Indian; brought up by his Asian mother with only distant memories of his ‘snake-haired’ father from his early childhood. This 40-minute piece is set when he is a teenager, about to meet the black side of his family for the first time and keen to act in a way that will ensure he fits right in.

At school, he is bullied with the most offensive racist taunts, making him feel ashamed for being a ‘Paki’ and desperately eager to be able to call himself black, ‘proper black’, with the connotations of cool that is assumed to carry. Not that he is really in touch with that side of his heritage, as proved his comically awkward attempts to rap, because that’s what ‘they’ apparently like.

Richard has very effectively captured the human need to find a wider social group with which to conform, a feeling felt strongest by teenagers, in hock to peer pressure at its most intense. ‘I’m scared to stand on the outside,’ he says, as he desperately seeks a group with which to identify.

Before he hooks on to his black heritage, he tries becoming a devout Muslim, but fails because of his love of the sausage roll, instilled in him by his relaxed, toad-in-the-hole-loving mother. This is actually the one point where Richard loses his way a little, as this weakness for pork, presumably added for comic relief, is overplayed.

But for the most part, this is a thoughtful, witty look at what it can mean to be a child of mixed parents, in a cliquey world where a black-white youth can bully a black-Asian one on the basis of race. That the verbal abuse probably stems from insecurity itself is never properly explored, but this is not the bully’s story, but Richard’s.

As such, it’s an interesting one, which Richard tells in an engaging and charming way, as he sups from his golliwog mug. He shares his insecurities and confused sense of self with a script that seems truthful in both its humour and its pain. The result is a rewarding piece of dryly funny theatre.

Review date: 17 May 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton The Temple

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