Yvette is a story about growing up under the pressure of a broken home and is desperate to fit in with the rest of her school friends. Mum unknowingly despises her; Dad is nowhere to be seen. Urielle Klein-Mekongo brings original song, spoken word and rap to the production in order to get her message across, looping beats and harmonies on top of each other as an earthy, grounding bassline. Flitting back and forth between retrospective and in the moment, she adds narrative structure to Yvette but unfortunately loses the buy-in from the audience by skipping from past to future too readily.
The music and verse draws us in, paints the picture of a troubled teenager doing whatever is necessary to be considered cool. She has the expected projected confidence yet predictably lacks the internal self-acceptance to be truly comfortable in her own skin. White noise cuts through the monologues in an attempt to force Yvette to address the most serious incident that has permanently affected her, but the stubborn teenage side is able to sway it away in favour of pursuing boys and disobeying her overly strict mother. It keeps the audience curious, intrigued as to what is forcing its way back to the surface.
Klein-Mekongo relates her stories to the problems of growing up, the simplest of tasks that come across as painfully difficult because they’re being performed for the first time. Shaving your pubic hair; the first few sips of alcohol; summoning the courage to tell someone that you fancy them, all narrated with relatable and honest simplicity. When the heartbreak inevitably follows, Klein-Mekongo juxtaposes the gut-wrenching feeling with that of violence – a childlike crush sits alongside guns and gang culture in an exposing piece of spoken word. The ridicule and verbal bullying loop over each other until a cacophonous din is formed and Yvette is unable to take anymore. It’s vicious, vile and full of verve. When Klein-Mekongo smears herself in white handprints, a visual depiction of the desperate need for lighter skin, she highlights the intraracial pressures felt by young black women and girls even today. The darker the colour of your skin, the more you must overcompensate.
Yvette’s story comes to an abrupt end as Klein-Mekongo reflects on the most harrowing of incidents between her and her ‘uncle’ – every friend of your parents is an aunty or an uncle. It’s these shared wounds that bring the audience in closer, make Yvette understand her mum’s latent anger in a new, harsh light. Suddenly the desire is to be ugly, to fade away and to be unnoticed. This is a powerful piece made worse because it lacks the aggression that is expected – Klein-Mekongo fosters a numb sort of acceptance and acquiescence to the situation. She pours her soul into the open fifths of the final song, tainting it with sadness and all the emotions that she forbids herself from externally conveying.
Yvette feels like a work in progress, points where we connect to the young, troubled girl and others where the fourth wall prevents us from feeling her pain. Klein-Mekongo delivers a believable performance that needs some work to shape the backend of the narrative and add impact to the final moments of this girl’s sad, but all too common, story.
Yvette plays Pleasance Courtyard as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 26 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.