Pink Lemonade at Bush Theatre – Review by Lola Ellenberg
As part of a series working with Queen Mary University of London’s Drama department we are showcasing reviews by current students on their London Performance Now module.
This review is by Lola Ellenberg
There are few things as uniquely special as a live theatre performance that educates, inspires, and leaves you in awe. In Pink Lemonade, a one-person show playing at the Bush Theatre, writer and actor Mika Onyx Johnson does exactly that, and we are all better for it.
Pink Lemonade follows Mika on their journey navigating romantic relationships and living as a trans masculine person. Whether it is because trans stories often go unheard or due to the fact that this is an entirely innovative piece of theater, I was left with the powerful impression that this was unlike anything I had seen before. Mika combines movement with monologue, utilizing rap and spoken word to tell their profound story. It is a testament to Mika’s storytelling skills that this incredibly personal narrative is so natural to empathize and connect with. The plot, like many other aspects of the show, is unconventional.
In lieu of a traditional three-act structure, Mika instead floats through time and space, taking us back to life pre-transition and breaking the fourth wall to tell us directly their experience through the lens of memory. This experimental mode of storytelling so closely reflected Mika’s lived experience, and I found myself entirely caught up in Mika’s world and words from start to finish.
When my friends asked me what Pink Lemonade was about, I had a hard time articulating the magic that I saw. “It’s about sexuality, identity, life…” and they looked at me with curiosity and confusion. Though there is a plot – the show is essentially told through the parallel romantic experiences Mika had with two women, respectively – the show transcends the limitations of a traditional plot-driven play. As Mika raps, moves, or speaks, we are left with the feeling that this isn’t just dialogue, but is philosophy. There is something so enlightening about the way Mika tells their stories, and it also speaks to the power of live theater in general. I attempt to do so here, but it would be impossible to perfectly generate through words what we as a joint audience saw take place in the Bush Theater.
Pink Lemonade takes place in the black box studio, and the glowing, colorful lights illuminate not just Mika but also the audience members that surround the stage. I had the feeling that this was a communal experience, and it was absolutely fitting that this was live theater, because the show, space, and most significantly, Mika, were just teeming with life.
I can understand how Pink Lemonade may not be for ‘everyone’ – it is bold and liberated and empowered, and though in my opinion those are amazing qualities, I wouldn’t be surprised if some disagreed. However, I would urge anyone with the opportunity to see Mika’s work to do so. The one note I wrote down in my notebook immediately after the play was, “Mika is an artist in every sense of the word.” Artistry like this is rare, and when it does present itself, we would be remiss in missing it.