Last week, we went to Arcola Theatre in Dalson to see Hashtag Lightie, directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair and written by Lynette Linton who has also written other plays such as Step, Service and Chicken Palace.
Hashtag Lightie is a play that explores the complex identity that comes with having a mixed-race background. The piece centres around teenage make-up vlogger Ella and her family, exploring each of their interactions with society as a biracial person of Afro-Caribbean and White European heritage.
Being honest after seeing the trailer, I wondered if this play was going to delve as deep into issues as I was hoping. I wondered if it would echo the “Light Girls” documentary; a piece that fell short of meeting the mark when addressing the underlying roots of the issues light skinned black/biracial women face.
However Hashtag Lightie pleasantly surprised me, the play captured and relayed the nuance of being a mixed race person in the UK. Not only does it highlight the unique circumstance in which mixed race people can be discriminated against by both sides of their heritage but it also does not shy away from addressing the privilege that light skinned mixed race people receive in a society that promotes proximity to whiteness.
With moments of hard-to-swallow honesty, great comedy, Black Apron’s on stage social media, and clearly drawing on Lynette's experience of growing up in Leytonstone, East London – the play is highly relatable and sits well as a representation of modern day London in the era of social media.
Side note: Leytonstone is also our hometown – we actually realised we knew Lynette from back in the day! Gwarn girl!)
What Hashtag Lightie does so well is show the audience the perception of mixed race from a variety of viewpoints; the Black fiancé Bradley who constantly draws attention to Aimee’s (Ella’s sister’s) caramel complexion; the White fiancé David who is yet to understand the importance of race related discussions; Ella who has been imbued with a sense of misled pride and/or superiority due to the colour of her skin. If the message is not driven home by the end of the play, there was a Q&A for the press afterwards to allow everyone to ask questions, unlearn misconceptions and actually listen to the experience of mixed race people in the UK.
I always enthuse about how important it is to allow people to tell their own stories about their culture, heritage and experience and Lynette did this very well with the script of Hashtag Lightie. She drew from her own experiences both in and outside of London to offer an entertaining but essential learning tool in Hashtag Lightie that will allow us to comprehend the mixed race experience better.