Award-winning writer and actress Julene Robinson’s The Night Woman has finally made its way to The Other Palace. In this one-woman show, Robinson finds strength in both blackness and womanhood via a mythic narrative that she skillfully crafts.
Robinson's performance is the most striking part of The Night Woman. The up-and-coming actress gracefully navigates between extreme lows and highs. We first see her as a broken woman who feels betrayed by God and wants nothing more than to rid herself of her darkness. Robinson then reveals deep suffering within this woman’s heart as she is tightly constrained, having submitted to the pain inflicted by internalised anti-black narratives. Not long afterwards, Robinson transforms herself into an almighty figure who successfully deconstruct these narratives. We get the sense that this is some otherworldly presence, solid as a rock and capable of healing pain. Robinson’s ability to drastically transform herself on stage is certainly impressive.
Numerous aspects of The Night Woman, alongside acting, come together to create this powerful impact. The show begins and ends in darkness that is filled only by Robinson’s voice and gentle sounds of nature. The sense of mystery that oozes throughout the show lends power to her monologue, dance and singing. Once the light emerges, we see Robinson alone on an otherwise empty black stage. The bare set creates a strong sense of intimacy by ensuring that there are no barriers between the actress and the audience. This opening effectively invites us into her world, adding a personal touch to the performance.
In many ways, The Night Woman is a quiet piece. Voices echo through the vacant stage. Ambient noises play in the background throughout much of the show. When the occasional music plays, it is accompanied by Robinson's soft and slow singing. This creates an atmosphere that adds weight and significance to every word spoken.
A combination of these effects brings us closer to Robinson's outstanding work. Her ability to express vulnerability and openness is what truly makes The Night Woman shine. The play is a profound experience that is worth more than the price of admission.