Cancellation of Notting Hill Carnival makes West End show even more important, says star

·2-min read
 (Helen Murray)
(Helen Murray)

J’ouvert star Gabrielle Brooks says bringing the Notting Hill Carnival-set show to the West End in a year when carnival itself is cancelled makes it even more special.

The Londoner, who plays Nadine in the play, said: “It makes it all the more special right? Especially in a time where there has been this explosion of consciousness and politics around the ideas of blackness and black Britishness.

“We as a community haven't got to be together in that time where everyone is talking about us, we haven’t got to hold each other and feel that sense of community so something like this play is really really important and I feel that when I’m on stage.

“I feel that sense of community that I feel at Notting Hill because I feel held by the audience.”

Earlier this week, carnival organisers announced they had made the decision to take the event off the streets in its 55th year.

Notting Hill Carnival, which was forced online last year due to the pandemic, is normally attended by around two million people.

 (Helen Murray)
(Helen Murray)

The 31-year-old, who grew up in north London in a family with Caribbean roots, said she was “very lucky to be playing something so close to my heart”.

The show, at the Harold Pinter Theatre, centres around her character’s attempt to defy her family and win a dance competition at the annual event.

She said: “It is a true place of freedom, it’s a place where blackness is celebrated in a way it isn’t any other time of year.”

She said the cast had benefited from the advice of movement coach, Shelley Maxwell, who helped them bring the spirit of carnival to the West End theatre and said that spirit came back to them when the audience heard the music that soundtracks the show.

She said: “It’s like they hear a sense of hope and they’re not quiet about it.

“They’re vocal in their complete adoration and joy and that’s when I remember how amazing carnival is.”

:: J’ouvert by Yasmin Joseph runs at the Harold Pinter theatre until July 3.

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