'Identity Crisis': Phina Oruche's One Woman Show Challenges Racial Typecasting

'Identity Crisis': Phina Oruche's One Woman Show Challenges Racial Typecasting

As students, the idea of our identities being defined by our careers may feel a bit foreign. We’re our degrees, our friends, how much we had to drink last night. But as a final year student, I can’t help but think, ‘what next? Am I on the verge of an identity crisis?’

Hollyoaks and Footballer’s Wives actress and former model, Phina Oruche, pokes fun at a world raging with identity crises in her semi-autobiographical, self-written comedy. Although a solo performance, the stage rings with a chorus of voices. Using differing personas Oruche confront the assumptions she faced when typecast as a black woman. She becomes male; female; old; young; from all over the world, challenging the identities cast upon us.

Although the message is pleasantly universal to anyone who has struggled with a changing identity (and hey, who hasn’t?), Oruche’s meaning is inoffensively obvious. With the Black Lives Matterin the US, and, on home soil, the uncertainty of Brexit voicing itself in racial violence, black communities are trying to voice a unified respectable identity.

Standing in a black jumpsuit against an all-white background, Oruche seems to disengage herself from the few – but undeniably gorgeous – photos projected behind her from her modelling days. “That isn’t me,” she says. “I don’t recognise myself in those photos.”She mocks the racism she received as a model. Hairstylists didn't know what to do with her hair except disguise it with a wig. Oruche found her modelling and acting career represented and defined through stereotypical qualities of “AFRICAAA” - a continent she has never lived in.

In a distortion of her body and altered accent, she becomes her Nigerian mother. Mama Nukku, who, back home in Liverpool, is so transfixed by her daughter’s face on a bus that she follows it to the end of its route.

Oruche is clever. Her play is hilarious. She doesn’t wag a victimised finger at white members of the audience.Instead, she becomes all of us, bonding us together through laughter. She bounces off audience reactions to create something fresh. Landing on her feet, in real life and on stage.

In a play that points out the contradictions and hypocrisies of everyday life, it’s as if Oruche is saying “hey, at the end of the day, aren’t we all just beautiful, flawed humans?”

Jessica Cripps