And yet what we remember are her great renditions of blues, gospel and jazz numbers that have stood the test of time. So it’s great to tell you that this 70-minute emotional rollercoaster ride through her life and civil rights activism is absolutely mesmerising and not to be missed.
Recorded in front of a live audience at London’s Wilton Music Hall Apphia Campbell has written and performed a stunning revelation of a show, which grips, amuses, depresses and cheers us in equal measure.
Although I have been a lifelong fan of Simone’s silky, sultry vocals, I learned a ton about her private life and the amazing fact that she was on trajectory to be the first Black classical pianist – veering into her singing career to fund her future education which she never returned to.
The action takes place in a spartan hotel room, where we find Nina “ cleansing “ herself of cigarettes, booze and even disconnecting the telephone. She’s doing it for the highly symbolic 3 days – the 3 days that Lazarus lay dead and that Noah resided inside the whale – all coming out good as she tells us.
But she’ s not telling us – she’s talking throughout to her recently and suddenly dead father. It’s a story of poverty to wealth, of a deeply religious upbringing and of a strong sense of what is right and wrong in the segregated America in which she lived.
The songs come organically out of the story-telling — See-line woman, I Loves You Porgy, Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair, The Look Of Love, Feeling Good, Mississippi Goddam,Young Gifted And Black – and Apphia puts them across with energy, true grit and emotional honesty.
Ultimately it turns out to be a story of forgiveness and reconciliation and I for one am grateful to have witnessed it. This show has to go somewhere else -it is a truly great night in the theatre.
The show is presented by Seabright Productions and is streamed from 12-18 July – tickets at stream.theatre/season/159