Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 6 – 9, 2022
Playwright: Nancy Denis
Composer: Carl St. Jacques
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Nancy Denis (with musicians Victoria Falconer, Mick Stuart and Kween G)
Images by Jacquie Manning
Nancy Denis is a warrior, not only of circumstance, but also of heritage. A woman of Haitian background, a fighting spirit thrives in her blood. Generations of colonial history have not been able to subdue Denis, as she declares in her show M’ap Boulé, or “I’m On Fire” in English. Featuring stirring music composed by the recently departed Carl St. Jacques, M’ap Boulé is a passionate exhibition of one woman’s joy and pain, and a poignant autobiography by a young artist with a lot to say.
An embodiment of dark-skinned queer womanhood, Denis represents so much of what is marginalised. The dominant hegemony that privileges the straight white male, is of course unable to conceive of her as equal. Her lived experience of inconvenient intersectionalities also means, that the various groups to which she should belong, also struggle to contain the seemingly conflicting identities that are ascribed onto her complicated, but perfectly natural body. To say that M’ap Boulé is an important work would be an understatement; it is a voice we rarely hear, yet demonstrates itself to be, quite possibly, the voice we need most to hear.
A warrior’s story is inherently combative and propulsive, but in M’ap Boulé it is the revelations of weakness and vulnerability, that make its depictions of strength, truly resonate. Directed by Anthea Williams, the show feels unequivocally guided by a sense of integrity, determined to put to the stage, a wholistic perspective of the author and all that she has chosen to share. Set and costumes by Maitê Inaê are celebratory of Denis qualities, as a woman of colour, born of Haitian immigrants, and together with Karen Norris’ lights, the stage glimmers and pulsates, to connect with the most sensual of our beings.
The artist’s charisma and exuberance as a performer, ensure that her audience is kept riveted. Her velvety timbre, especially when singing contralto, is simply exquisite, and a rare gift that brings tremendous amplification, to the soulfulness that underpins every song. Joining Denis on stage are musical director Victoria Falconer, rapper Kween G and musician Mick Stuart, who work in transcendent harmony, to offer our ears access to some place decidedly more exalted.
When we watch Nancy Denis on stage, we understand that she is precisely where she needs to be. There are no inadequacies, just as there is no perfection. We need to learn to see ourselves, beyond capitalistic and patriarchal lenses, to remember that we are human through and through, never to be anything but. For sure, we are capable of more, of better, of something else, but it is integral that we never forget, that today, is the result of having overcome everything before, and it is good.