4 (2) · Poetry & Spoken Word, Contemporary Drama

Chiaroscuro: (noun) the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.

Lyn Gardner avatar
29 August 2019  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“Marking the directing debut of Lynette Linton in her role as the Bush’s new artistic director, this is a reimagining of Jackie Kay’s 1986 play that embraces black female experience from the 1980s until now. Jackie Kay’s memoir of growing up in Glasgow as an adopted mixed race child and her 20-year search for her biological parents, Red Dust Road, has just been staged in a world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival – and this revival should remind everyone what a distinctive talent she is. It brings together four women at a supper party who are all looking for the answer to the same question.”
“In the art world, Chiaroscuro is a term that refers to the way light and darkness are contrasted in painting. Back in the 80s, playwright Jackie Kay wrote this play about the way women of colour are treated as a result of the shade of their skin. This new version, by incoming Artistic Director Lynette Linton, will reimagine the story in a way that shows how experiences have evolved over the last 40 years.”


I want to find it all now know our names know the others in history so many women have been lost at sea so many stories have been swept away

Aisha, Yomi, Beth and Opal couldn’t be more different, but when Aisha hosts a dinner party, the friends soon discover that they’re all looking for an answer to the same question. Does it lie in Aisha’s childhood? Or in Beth and Opal’s new romance? Who will tell them who they really are?

What starts out as a friendly conversation between women, soon turns heated when Yomi reveals what she really thinks about Beth and Opal’s relationship.

Live music and spoken word collide in an explosive gig-theatre event that breathes new life into Scottish National Poet Jackie Kay’s 1986 masterpiece. Directed by Lynette Linton (Sweat, Richard II), this bold reimagining explores the experiences of women of colour across generations and celebrates female identity from the 1980s to now.

Critic reviews

Particular praise goes to the original music, composed by Shiloh Coke and performed live by the cast members themselves. The instrumental parts weave through the words in a soothing way

The Upcoming

It's packed full of a triumphant force, which has so much soul and makes an excellent case for how wonderful humanity can be

Broadway World

She writes with a rare passion and poetry, but her characterization is quite bitty and the storytelling is sketchy

The Arts Desk

The performances are glorious, Shiloh Cooke’s score is both heady and lyrical, and there is a huge pleasure simply in being in a room where the audience keep erupting with laughter

Lyn Gardner for Stagedoor

If this is just the start of what new artistic director Lynette Linton will do at the Bush Theatre, it’s going to be a venue that warrants religious attendance

Evening Standard

Overall, Chiaroscuro feels well-meant but under-powered, not as subtle or as interesting as its title suggests. A missed opportunity


Lynette Linton’s debut as artistic director is a musical revival of an undramatic piece about the dilemmas of four women

The Guardian

Lynette Linton's first production as artistic director of the Bush Theatre is a bold and playful staging of Jackie Kay’s play

The Stage

For all the sparkle of the performances, the play lacks firm structure and, though fairly short, flags in the final third before an up-tempo finale

Financial Times

This is an exceptionally tender piece. Linton allows many touching moments to unfurl gently – or suddenly ambushes you with emotion

Time Out

Timeless BAME drama that draws you into an emotive jam-session

The Telegraph

Date & time

Show ended
Sat 31 Aug - Sat 5 Oct, 2.30pm & 7.30pm


7 Uxbridge Road London W12 8LJ London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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