Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone

Birmingham Rep Studio


Josette Bushell-Mingo is an artistic director and nominated award actor and singer. Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone is her self-devised and performed performance.

In an exploration and commentary of the civil rights movement and political racism today, Bushell-Mingo uses Nina Simone’s gift of song and her activist life to give the audience her own interpretation into the way history has shaped modern culture in Britain and America.

Using Nina Simone’s songs as a backdrop to explore the parallels between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, Bushell-Mingo gives us a powerful look into the black experience and most importantly, poses the question as to what has changed from Nina’s time.

The performance draws on Bushell-Mingo’s connection to the black experience then and now, driven by the life, music and thoughts of Nina Simone. It is a message that highlights activism and poses the question as to what has changed between the late 1960s and the way in which black people are being treated today.

It is not just a show that highlights Nina as an artist, rather, what Nina did to change the world around her. Bushell-Mingo also uses her incredible musical talents to create a social change.

Bushel-Mingo wants the audience to instantly feel included and free by creating an instant atmosphere of entertainment and enjoyment of music. Her introduction is a fiery rendition of Nina’s Revolution and is supported effortlessly by her live band.

She colourfully describes the scenes in 1969 as a time of hope and change. She describes the music, smiles and undoubted hope or the future that finally, there will be freedom.

The choice of singing Nina’s Revolution at the beginning of her piece is apt. It suddenly draws to a halt when she describes to the idea of a revolution being like a circle, in that we arrive at the same place as we were at the beginning.

This is Bushell-Mingo’s main exploration, where she draws upon the parallels between Nina’s time and now. She reminds us of innocent black lives who were murdered by police brutality both in the UK and America over the past Fifty years.  

She particularly draws upon Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times in the space of thirteen and a half seconds by police officers in Chicago in 2017.  Bushell-Mingo creates striking parallels in her performance where she certainly wants us to enjoy and feel the music that Simone has gifted us, however there is still an important message that must be listened to.

It is a powerful performance that of course entertains us all and yet does not allow the message of the outrage of racism pushed to the side, especially with modern references of race-inflicted murder by the institutions.

Bushel-Mingo was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award in 2000 for her role in The Lion King musical and it is clear that we are in in presence of fine musical talent.

Her renditions of Simone’s iconic tunes include Feeling Good, I Wish I knew How it Would Feel to be Free and Aint Got No, I Got Life. She has an undoubting ability to lift up our spirits with her energised performances through song. Her strong presence and passionate delivery also teaches us about her own experience by giving us an intelligent exploration into race and racism with her devised script with Dritero Kasapi.  

Like Nina, she hopes to move the audience in order to educate to create change for the better. She includes everyone to allow them to feel the wonderful joys that Nina’s music has given us, but also makes sure that we are there to know and realise that racism is still very real and in front of us. With her unique musical talent and incredible intelligent perception, Bushell-Mingo has a hope to incite change today, just as Nina did in her time. To 10-03-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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