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1st December 2021

Review: Pink Lemonade

Rebecca Rommen reviews Pink Lemonade at the recently refurbished Contact Theatre – just after Trans Awareness Week
Review: Pink Lemonade
Photo: Helen Murray (Copyright).

“Black Trans Bodies are Divine”: Praise for The Queer House’s Pink Lemonade.

Mika Onyx Johnson’s autobiographical Pink Lemonade show had a sold-out run at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. Johnson’s theatrical debut was well received by critics and audiences alike, and has toured the UK since its launch.

Johnson (he/they) has the seductive ability to make a one-man show feel like the stage is home to more than just one talented performer. Pink Lemonade welcomed Manchester audiences for the first time this week at the newly redeveloped Contact Theatre. I moved to Manchester in 2018, but because of Contact’s refurbishment project, this was my first time in the arts venue. Whether you think the building is an eyesore or an architectural revelation, it succeeds in piquing the interest of passersby.

I felt at ease as soon as I made my way into the resident bar and café. This is a space that honed creativity and fostered youth leadership, and these virtues are felt the minute you walk through the door. A screen by the entrance warned prospective audience members that Pink Lemonade featured lemons on stage – a notice for people who may be allergic. Intriguing.

Once in my seat, the lights dimmed, and pink hues lit the stage. Johnson’s first moments on stage were deliberately nonverbal as they performed raunchy dance moves for an amused audience. The first line set the tone for the show: “Sometimes all you need is a good wank.”

What followed was an hour of spoken poetry, simulated sex acts, observational comedy, social commentary, powerful monologues, and the occasional musical interval. If this were a written autobiography, it would take the form of vignettes.

Johnson challenged the audience to deconstruct assigned genders and their implications for identity and self-discovery. His content is inherently intersectional, touching on the interrelated roles of gender, sexuality, and race. They talk about how their lived experience as a gender-nonconforming POC cannot be condensed by Judith Butler or any other academic. They turned this “lived experience” into an accessible narrative that at times invoked uncomfortable silence, and at others prompted laughs.

Lest I forget, lemons did make an appearance on stage. They fell from the ceiling and played a role during pivotal moments, serving as metaphors and props alike. Is Johnson’s journey of gender-defying self-discovery a tale of turning lemons into pink lemonade? I’ll let you determine the symbolism.

Johnson is witty, endearing, and provocative. They preach radical self-love and resist the binary, and – like the Contact Theatre itself – they are a revelation. I can’t recommend Pink Lemonade enough.

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