Mika Johnson’s Pink Lemonade is a one-person, spoken word powerhouse about the sourness of Johnson’s journey through gender, performance, and relationships. Its sweeping themes pack neatly into Johnson’s personal stories, and the way in which they unpack them for an audience through poetry, movement and lipsync is brilliant to watch.
Johnson takes up space: they own and use it theatrically in the most effective of ways to bounce between neon lit spoken word, fluid, powerful movement and one of the finest and funniest sex scenes I’ve seen onstage. Their performance is (for want of a less cliched adjective) unapologetic, underscored by driving electronic music that fuels Johnson’s pain and anger throughout at two of their exes: Toni, who only dates black and brown wxmen and Simi, who insists on her heterosexuality whilst in a queer relationship. These are romances that unravel into sweeping social issues, and Johnson’s genius is the way in which their delivery keeps these stories both intensely personal and socially pertinent. Johnson’s observational exploration of desire is both humorous and heartbreaking, especially their questioning of the fetishization of POC within the LGBTQ+ community, and the idea that even now women still find it so difficult to allow themselves to desire anything other than masculinity.
But it is not just what Johnson says that is engaging, but the way in which they say it. They open with an acknowledgement of the performance of identity and gender before moving smoothly into a pantomime of hypermasculinity. It is just this switching between mediums that shows Johnson’s understanding of ‘performance’ and its subtleties: how their movement can express a kind of physical yearning that their words cannot. The set is simple to allow for Johnson to shine, neon lights, a box of lemons and a cocktail which they drink as their final act onstage. It is the lemonade made out of the sourness of experience, and a toast to a show well done.