The first thing you notice about Just Another Day and Night is that its creator and performer, Azara, has a smile that properly lights up the stage. It’s a beatific beam, her eyes closed, face tilted skyward as she gets lost in the pattern of drum beats, rhythm rippling from top to toe.
The second thing may be that it makes you want to go out and dance – all the more so when, instead, you’re sitting in the dark, in a carefully spaced-out audience with mask-obscured faces, 50-odd people who quietly file in and out of the theatre past the shut-up bar. Going out is a different experience right now.
Part of the Splayed festival of queer art, which is taking place live and online, Just Another Day and Night is a story from the before times, of messy evenings hopping between house parties, shouting over loud music and sharing spliffs. Twenty-nine-year-old Azara tells her tale using spoken word and movement in parallel and it’s a perfectly natural, unforced combination, describing and reliving the moment at once.
The delivery is chatty, engaging, free flowing; the movement alternates between effortless groove and tricky hip-hop floorwork and freezes. Or she uses it to wittily enhance her story, playing out an argument between two girls as a dance battle, for example. Azara exudes warmth, but that buzz is interrupted with a jolt when other people confront her with judgments and accusations, on her gender, sexuality and race. Is it too much to ask, she says, to be able to enter a room without all eyes turning on her, without becoming the centre of attention, without having to explain who she is?
When Azara’s script gets overtly political, her appeal for acceptance becomes pointed rather than poetic. It loses some of the magic, maybe, but you can tell she can’t risk this plea going astray. To keep the stage so easily alive for an hour with only two drummers for company is impressive. You’re in good company and safe hands with this talented performer who’s got something to say.