The Unity Theatre is fast approaching its closure for its much anticipated, redevelopment and this latest show is a mark of that change. Nina - a story about me and Nina Simone has been in development for the past decade with it's patron Josette Bushell-Mingo taking on the role of Nina.
Many people would have heard a Nina Simone song over the years, probably without realising it, and her songs are still as powerful and relevant in today's society as when they were first written in America in the 1950s and 1960s. This production peels back the layers to her songs with Josette Bushell-Mingo doing an extraordinary job of telling Simone's story. Simone sang powerful songs, always heavy with meaning and at times very moving, and she touched the hearts of so many people. This show is a mixture of Nina's background, her own struggles and the voice that she found and shared with many who did not have a voice in a time where prejudice and violence was prevalent.
Accompanying Bushell-Mingo on stage, the three-man band is all that are needed to provide the musical support to her stunning vocals. There are many spine tingling moments as the familiar notes are played and we hear Bushell-Mingo's velvet voice sing Feeling Good followed by Ain't Got No, I Got Life. It seems that a piano, bass a set of drums and some moody lighting are all that are needed to create that gig feeling, and Bushell-Mingo is remarkable at setting the audience at ease and very quickly are encouraged to join in.
This is a very moving piece, cleverly written and structured so that it encapsulates the very essence of who Nina Simone was, and her stunning vocals and emotive songs still manage to move you even now. There are quite a few spine tingling moments as music, setting and vocals seem to become one as you become totally absorbed by Bushell-Mingo and a performance that was worthy of its three standing ovations.
Beautiful staged, simple but very effective, Nina - a story about me and NinaSimone really is a show that cannot be ignored. As moving and emotive as it is, you will still the theatre with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction of a great night out at the theatre.