Finding Beulah is a play about ties: familial ties, ties of love, cultural ties and societal ties. The things that bind us to history and to our own histories. This central interest is explored through the story of a couple whose love spans the whole of human history, making iterations of the two lovers live through slave deportation, early 20th-century lynchings, 1970s Brixton, and a near-future where Marcus Garvey's Back-to-Africa movement finally comes to fruition and there is a mass exodus from the West to Africa.
This piece has everything, from high drama to high emotion and everything in between. It successfully uses a diverse range of forms, including dance, physical theatre, realist dialogue, song and multimedia projections. The dance is performed by Nicola Moses-Thrower, who has grace and power in equal parts and her performance is enhanced by her bold costume. It is only the use of multimedia which feels a step too far in the cornucopia of effects, as it seems unnecessary and not of the high standard set by the rest of the piece.
The narrative bulk follows the two lovers, played with style by Amantha Edmead and Ben Owara. Their multi-roling is very effective and well achieved; not a simple task given that the characters in each era are different whilst retaining fundamental similarities. Amantha in particular is outstanding in her delivery. She really carries the show. Her monologue in the 1928 era where her partner has just been lynched in front of her is particularly remarkable; it is harrowing and brutal, delivered with palpable emotional weight. It sent shivers down my spine.
In the Q&A with the cast and creative team afterwards, it became clear that the play had really touched a nerve for many audience members. Many talked about how the questions in the piece echoed questions they have been asking themselves for years and were relieved and excited to see them on the stage. The debate among those who stayed was lively and fascinating.
This piece was gripping, beautiful and eye-opening; I would highly recommend going to see it if you get a chance when it tours next year.