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Review of RAISING LAZARUS by Kat Francois
The Stage 10th May, 2017, Brighton Festival
Raising Lazarus skilfully blends the personal and political. The show takes the form of a poignant look at her family's heritage that also sheds light on a piece of history too often overlooked.
Francois discovers, to her shock, that one of her Grenadian relatives – the titular Lazarus – served and died in the First World War, and sets out to discover the details behind both his service and his sacrifice.
Playing all the roles herself – from her gran, who wonders why all her English grandkids are always on a diet, to a wartime nurse who has never seen a black person before – Francois deftly slips between personas, sometimes in character, sometimes directly addressing the audience, using a mix of material from various war archives and her own recollections of her family and research to recreate a vivid picture of the man and his time, as well as what the search itself meant for her.
Her background as a poet is obvious in the lyricism of the language, and she's an engaging and compelling performer. The piece touches nicely on culture clash both old and new – of returning to Grenada with her impatient London ways, of black soldiers struggling with English weather and Colonial attitudes.
Played out against a video backdrop of photos and records, it is often very funny, always moving, sometimes harrowing. But it also feels essential – Francois reminds us that the erasure of such black (and wider people of colour) contributions to British history feed into the toxic narratives that still shape discussions of race and immigration today.