Urielle Klein-Mekongo, and the character she has created, Yvette, are young. Urielle and Yvette are young, capable, smart and talented women, who share an immense story about Yvette’s childhood trauma, using multi-character monologue, a looped audio score, and a physical presence which is strong but vulnerable, both available to an audience’s gaze yet firmly beyond our grasp. Urielle and Yvette are young, as are all those who experience childhood abuse and sexual assault at a young age.
Over the summer, the New York State Legislature failed, yet again, to pass the Child Victims Act – to extend the statute of limitations on child abuse cases - or even to bring the law to a vote. And while Yvette lives in the UK, age 13, and her portrayal by Klein-Mekongo is complicated, rich and multi-faceted, I couldn’t help thinking about the other young survivors of abuse who, unlike Yvette, lack the confidence, or means, or mental preparedness to confront their abuser in their lifetime, pursue legal justice, or even find coping mechanisms to deal with trauma.
Yvette is a portrait of a woman at the epicenter of a world heavy with –isms: racism, sexism, body fascism, classism, colorism. And as audience members, we watch with a sense of powerlessness, waiting, hoping for something to disrupt the trajectory which is not inevitable, but feels probable, in a world which rarely privileges or looks out for young people in any manner which is more than just disciplinarily. That Yvette's story exists at all is a tragedy in any society, but the fact that it is as common as it is is an absolute disgrace, and a reminder that these isms- particularly sexism - are deeply rooted and need to be dismantle at every turn. What is rare, though, is the image of such a trauma being performed with such strength, dignity and commitment - the audience can watch with horror what happens to Yvette while simultaneously finding Klein-Kemongo's performance a reminder of the power of storytelling.
- Brian Lobel
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
On the New York State Child Victims Act - NY Daily News
Race and Gender at Edinburgh Fringe: Excerpts from the Diary of a Black Woman at the Edinburgh Fringe by Selina Thompson - Exeunt