The monopolization and manipulation of public narratives by the powerful has long been a pernicious political reality on both a national and global level. Invariably, they who shout the loudest somehow assert a claim to legitimacy, despite the commonly ill-conceived and downright harmful nature of the content being peddled.
A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
Piles of colourful patterned fabrics line the stage, and three women dressed in black Lycra leotards select a fabric and wrap it around their head. The fabrics are drawn across the stage as the performers’ bodies undulate in a backwards crawl, before the scene is set as a hair salon with the colours swept away in a swirl around a chair.
As the title The Hair Wrap Diaries suggests, during this Uchenna Dance production written by Bola Agaje in partnership with director and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe, we hear different stories from each performer. Yet the show is also interspersed with dance, giving it a strong sense of poetics as the words are broken up and repeated with the movements. The stories themselves are carefully selected, offering a rainbow of different generations of black women, exploring their relationship with hair.
cw: sexual assault, PTSD
There’s something weirdly intimate about being curled up in a corner of a bed, completely naked and sobbing uncontrollably, unable to catch your breath and being very conscious of the wet space between your legs where a warm body was just seconds ago. The face belonging to this body is now centimetres away from my face, asking too many questions, and panicking more than I am.
by Hannah Rose
Outside Selfridges on Oxford street at 5am Boxing Day morning, a queue had already formed. The sales could not start soon enough for some shoppers. At the same time, Aleksander’s father was waking his son up. He handed him a pile of thermal underwear and a hard hat and told him to get ready so they could go and ‘explore’ the site.
“Can I really see where you are working, dad!?”
“Of course, but you will have to stay in the cabin for a while as I have some large girders to move with the crane. If you stay in there you can watch out of the window. Bring your tablet and learn some English words while you wait, ok?”
by Hannah Rose
Later that night after Aleksander and his father had eaten too much food and watched a few films, and when Aleksander was asleep on the sofa, his father switched on the tablet and opened his emails. One was from his boss, the ops manager, and had an attachment. Do I need to read this now? He thought. Better to know what that tool has to say now, than worry about it all night. The email read:
by Hannah Rose
“What do you mean you sacked my team?” Aleksander’s father said to his boss, the operations manager late on Christmas Eve when he finally called him back. “It’s the day before Christmas and we were already behind schedule.”
“Look, mate,” the ops manager said. “the pound has taken a nosedive since Brexit, and your lot were asking for double their hourly rate, and expecting a Christmas bonus.”
“ ‘Your lot’” Aleksander’s father chastised.
The ops manager didn’t hear him.
“I’ve got the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi on my back threatening to pull the whole thing and leave a bunch of half built hotels in Battersea and a whole company of British workers made redundant if I don’t balance the books and get this thing sorted. I did you a favour by keeping you on. I had to let them go and get things level again. Otherwise there might have been a mutiny—sabotage—and how would that look for you, eh?”
‘You did me a favour’ Aleksander’s father silently repeated, bitterly.
“And what about my lot who have no money to send home this month?” He asked.
“Look, mate, we have to look after our own in this post Brexit world of ours. If you get the main building looking relatively ship shape by January 1st and the Sheikh is happy then I will consider bringing the Poles back for phase 2 of the project.”
“But why at Christmas?!” Aleksander’s father was desperate.
“Well it isn’t Christmas for the bloody Sheikh, is it?—he’s an Arab!”
by Hannah Rose
The PM placed the Impact Assessment on Effects on Building Site Managers carefully down in front of her, crossed her arms and looked to her cabinet. “This Christmas,” she said, “you all have homework to do.” I’d like you to read this Impact Assessment, inside out, and all the others, by the 1st January 2018.”
“Every single one ma’am?” The minister for education said, timidly.
“Every single one,” She replied. “And don’t call me ma’am. I’m not the queen—or Margaret Thatcher, God rest her soul.”
by Hannah Rose
Christmas in England this year made a festive looking smokescreen for the dirtiest of politics. Whilst civilians were stripping the shelves of Lidl of pickles, the PM and her cabinet were negotiating terms for exiting Europe for good—no one would see them slink away through the back door. In mid December the Brexit Impact Assessments, which had taken up most of civil service’s working week throughout the year, sat in a sagging pile on the Cabinet’s round table, resembling the Christmas cake which no one actually likes but must stay there reminding everyone of the hard effort some relative put in to making it. “Who has actually read these?” the PM asks. Silence, except for the shuffle of feet. She picks up the top file between her forefinger and thumb and waves it at the men sitting around her. “Has anyone read” –she pauses to peer at the title—“’Effects on Self-employed Building Site Managers’?” The Defence Secretary coughs and offers a response.
“That isn’t my area ma’am.”
“Esteemed colleagues,” the PM says to her cabinet, not unkindly. “Brexit is everyone’s area.”