abuelo head


Birmingham Rep Door


AMAHRA Spence is a talented young writer and performer; in her one woman show, the daringly brave Abuelo, she recalls the most intimate parts of her life.

In the hour long performance, she tells us the most compromising events in her life, creating a touching story of a young woman growing up in Birmingham.

Through her own experience Spence aims to find a sense of identity and draws the parallels from two generations.

There is one central character integral to Spence’s experience of today, her grandfather, who drives her story and allows us to see how his experience has shaped Spence’s own journey today. Through Spence’s charming and endearing accounts of her grandad, we see the connections between the old and young to have the questions answered that she asks about her own cultural identity.

In the opening lines, Spence embodies her grandfather’s ‘quirks’ and instantly creates a secondary character as part of the story. She recounts the story of her grandfather, who at the age of sixteen began a life in the Midlands from his home in Jamaica.

Using a cheery playfulness, she creates a fond new character of what she sees in her grandad. The set is cleverly minimal. Spence’s talent for story telling is all we need for her brilliant voice to be heard.

Her voice and talent for recounting the story alone allows us to envisage grandad on stage at all times. There is a coat hanger on the left of the stage which holds a costume of a coat, tie and hat. As Spence embodies his charm and grace using flamboyant patois, she creates a presence of her grandfather that is so strong, we almost believe that he is there with us.

In fact, he was part of the audience on press night and was bought on stage at the end of the production with a round of applause at the curtain call.

Her account from being a young teenager to the life she lives today is beautifully told. She has a superb talent for writing and storytelling. Director Daniel Bailey does well to convey her authenticity and impactful writing within her performance.

Spence is brave to tell us the most difficult moments of her journey amid a strong positivity and humorous theme which runs throughout the production.

As we listen to her accounts of the past, we are captured by her charm and maturity of the way she relays the hardest events of her life so far. We listen just as hard as she listed to her grandad as he told the stories of his past.

With Spence’s fond embodiment of the essence of her grandfather, we hear the story of his life and times as a young man. Spence has cleverly combined both her grandfather’s tale and that of her own and places them in parallel with each other. With the grace of her grandfather’s accounts of being young, we see the remarkable similarities of the generations.

At the beginning, we hear that Spence is has a little sense of identity and looks to her self-assured grandad for guidance. From the perspective of an audience member, it was already plain that she had already found the answers she was looking for within her culture and the life she lives today.

What she actually sets out to do is more personal and brave. When exploring the culture of her grandfather, Spence looks up to him in every sense, and the love that she emulates throughout the show leaves a lasting effect on the audience too. To 16-01-15

Elizabeth Halpin



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