WTF 2014 Brisbane Powerhouse
February 13 – 23 2014
A Boy and His Soul (USA)
Written and performed by Colman Domingo
Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
February 12 – 16 2014
Review by Guy Frawley
A Boy and His Soul is an autobiographical tale of three interwoven stories told by the electrifying Colman Domingo. A love letter to the music Colman was raised with, an homage to his family of larger than life characters and the story of a young African-American guy coming to terms with his sexuality in Philadelphia’s inner city during the 80s and early 90s.
If I was to look for fault in A Boy and His Soul it would be found in this final strand of his story. Whilst the rest of the show serves a blend of entertaining over the top theatricality and heartfelt ode to the days of yore, Domingo’s coming out story (predictably accompanied by Diana Ross’s queer anthem I’m Coming Out) clunks through the same territory we’ve all heard a hundred times before. I’ve no issue with the authenticity of the tale, this is Domingo’s story and in the life of any gay man one’s coming out story is a big moment. But in A Boy and His Soul nothing new is brought to the stage with the retelling of this part of his tale. Where Stefanie Preissner brought a fresh voice and angle to her telling of 20-something angst in Solpadeine is My Boyfriend, on the same stage only an hour previous none the less, Domingo’s coming out seemed to just rehash the same story we’ve all heard before.
Now that that’s out of the way let me tell you why I absolutely adored the rest of this show!
It’s my firm belief that soul music is a genre best enjoyed with company. Grooving along at the barbecue, in the arms of a lover, with friends on a long hot summer’s night. James Brown calls on you to get on up because this is a music that’s made to be lived! It’s this shared experience that is the true soul of this show. Domingo’s family stories are filled with colour and detail as he brings to life the characters of his mother, stepfather, brother and sister. His impersonation of these individuals are fully realised and many of the shows best moments appear when he effortlessly adopts these personas. He embodies these characters with a greater effect than any costume could provide and it would be easy to say A Boy and His Soul has one of the best ensembles of I’ve seen in recent months if this wasn’t all a one man show.
Domingo performs with a burning, effervescent charisma, from start to finish he had the audience eating out of his hand. The costumes and sets are relatively non existent, just an old record player and two milk crates full of albums. But with the presence that Domingo brings to the stage and the constantly pumping soundtrack of soul classics, there isn’t any need for further embellishment.
His joy at regaling these stories and revelling in the music of his people is thoroughly infectious. I say it’s the music of his people because it’s obvious that these aren’t just songs he’s enjoyed, but songs that have raised, sustained and guided him. These weren’t just names and faces on a record sleeve but extensions of his family; ever present throughout his formative years putting a song in his heart and a groove in his step.