The challenges and traumas of being a Black actress are powerfully depicted in Nicole Acquah’s Caste-ing, the latest show from acclaimed theatre company Nouveau Riche. Through a series of vignettes, it follows three young women as they navigate the casting process – one just starting out, one with a few roles behind her, and one in her 30s still waiting for her big break.
Using a mix of poetry, beat box, song and spoken word, it exposes the systemic prejudices in the TV, film and theatre industry, from auditions and headshot photoshoots through to make-up and the types of roles available. It also highlights the added pressure for Black artists and performers to become activists out of necessity rather than choice. More broadly, it portrays the emotional rollercoaster of being an actor, including the excruciatingly nail-biting wait for the post-audition phone call that may never come.
Although the show is fragmentary without a character-led narrative, a thread emerges of how friendships and support networks become important to help these women hold onto their self-belief and sanity. Directed by Shakira Newton, it features three strong performance from Rima Nsubuga, Yemi Yohannes and Stephanie Da Silva although the latter stands out with a beautiful singing voice and a heart-wrenching portrayal of a woman broken by the stress of rejection. Two of the cast reveal at the end that they are not yet represented by an agent but hopefully this production will change that.
Caste-ing runs at Paines Plough’s Roundabout at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe until 28 August 2022 ahead of a UK tour. Tickets at edfringe.com.