Do we ever stop performing? The Queer House’s production of Pink Lemonade is a powerhouse in exploring the questions surrounding female identity, lesbianism and racial stereotyping. Mia Johnson’s performance is a solo masterpiece that uses both a serious and humorous tone to inspire thought and reflect on our society.
Johnson’s performance tells a common story of the intersectional struggle in exploring the masculine inside the ‘feminine’ woman. The bare stage paired with the single mic stand created a striking platform for Johnson’s energetic expression of the body in her hyper masculine breakdancing motifs. This split the narrative into episodes, as she used beautiful spoken word to convey her childhood as well as the relationship struggles surrounding a masculine lesbian woman. The character of ‘Token Toni’ embodies the casual offensive comments that black women experience in everyday situations within bars and nightclubs. Johnson had the audience giggling at her awkward yet relatable rendition of these situations, with Toni approaching Mia based on the sexualisation surrounding the ‘black and brown body’ where she was expected to “dance like a black girl” and enjoy RnB due to the eroticism surrounding her ethnicity.
Sound and spotlight in the production highlights attention to Johnson’s individual struggles defining herself in daily life. She frequently challenges the audience with questions such as “What am I to you? A body?”. The barbershop scene illustrates the common sexual misconception that many lesbian women face, that men are in some way able to “straighten them out with manly goodness”. Johnson’s approach to these issues is thought-provoking yet colloquial enough to keep the performance light hearted.
The Theatre Deli venue provided the perfect atmosphere for Johnson to create an uncomfortable yet intimate scene displaying female sexual intercourse. When Mia finally gets intimate with Simmy – who has been the concentration of her desire, Simmy rejects her womanhood with a clear struggle of her own identity as she claims she “is not a lesbian” despite her clear interest in Mia. This scene poses the ultimate question to the audience, ‘How can we ever truly be ourselves when society constantly tells us how to perform?’. We see the pain that Mia endures in her fight to be both feminine and masculine in a society that creates strict binaries of gender. And on reflection, Pink Lemonade is not sweet or sour, but a combination of the two.
Image Credit: Theatre Deli Sheffield