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Review: Yvette, at Camden People’s Theatre

Child rape survivor Urielle Klein-Mekongo’s darkly humorous, one-woman musical is a remarkable event

11 May, 2018 — By Leo Garib

Urielle Klein-Mekongo in Yvette. Photo: Kaya Stanley-Money

HOW do you talk about rape? What about young teenagers who have been raped? Or the daily bullying they experience that is racist, overtly sexual and crushing?

Shamefully, as a society, we look the other way. Which makes young writer and actor Urielle Klein-Mekongo’s award-winning show a remarkable event.

After turning to acting as a salvation from her tough upbringing, she wrote her experiences as a child rape survivor in north-west London as a darkly humorous, one-woman musical.

Klein-Mekongo plays Yvette, a 13-year-old growing up on an a Neasden estate whose single mother is overbearing and whose life is shaped by the kind of sexual precociousness routinely expected of children.

Yvette is bullied for being too black, for her sexual failures and her social isolation, and though she puts a brave face on things, the pain is never far away.

Snappy observations are interspersed with beat-box songs as she dances her frustrations away. But then there are the sudden lapses and self-harm hauntingly depicted.

Finally, her mother’s friend who is supposed to keep an eye on Yvette, grooms then rapes her.

It’s a coming of age story drawn from the “challenges I faced growing up with daddy issues and trying to rise from the ashes of sexual abuse”, said Klein-Mekongo.

Award-winning director Gbolahan Obisesan drew on his extensive experience at the Young Vic and the Royal Court to tease out a searing portrayal from her.

After the encores, Klein-Mekongo made an emotional plea for Rape Crisis, one of the charities struggling to cope with deep government cuts while rapes in London have risen 20 per cent since last year and cash-strapped victim support centres are turning away girls and women every week.

Run ended but the tour of Yvette continues at Battersea Arts Centre, The Albany Theatre and the Bush Theatre.


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