Jade Anouka’s ‘Heart’ at Off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre is poetry in motion and emotion

In the world-premiere limited engagement of Heart at the Minetta Lane Theatre, presented by Audible in association with Kate Pakenham Productions, acclaimed London-based performer and poet Jade Anouka touches everyone’s with an unforgettable life-affirming story of how she learned to follow her own. Starring the artist and written by her in engagingly expressive verse, the intimate direct-address first-person narrative celebrates Anouka’s liberating real-life journey through the joys and pain of love, self-discovery, and personal freedom from the expectations of a biased society, as she battles the beast within and finds true happiness.

Jade Anouka. Photo by Trévon James.

Under the animated direction of Ola Ince, Anouka, after taking the spotlight and introducing herself to us on a centrally placed mic, actively moves around the stage, casually removing her jacket and changing layers of her overshirts (smart and stylish costume design by Emily Rebholz) and utilizing elements of the simple but lavishly draped set (by Arnulfo Maldonado) with each of the different recollections, thoughts, and feelings she relays and reenacts. Those include conversations she had with her parents (her mother is from Trinidad, her father from Jamaica), adopting their distinctive lilting accents and demeanors.

Whether gleefully swinging on a swing and climbing to the top of a high lifeguard chair with the warm and pleasant memories, dropping back down and below the seat when she recalls the bad times, engaging in a tug of war with the lush curtains when she needs to fight off her psychological demons, or covering herself in the fabric she pulls down when she’s uncomfortable in revealing to others the truth of who she is and what she wants, it’s all natural and fluid, soul-searching and honest, in a thoroughly captivating and flawless performance that had me (and the rest of the audience) deeply moved, masterfully entertained, and whole-heartedly rooting for the irresistible artist.

Jade Anouka. Photo by Trévon James.

Tracing her path from the backstory of being wed at age 24 to a troubled man she divorced at 28, through her reactions to that failed marriage with partying, dating, and the avoidance of a committed relationship, to a chance encounter and an unexpected romantic connection that triggered concerns about acceptance by her family, friends, profession, and public – but ultimately led to new self-realizations and new-found love – both her poetic words and rhythms, and the shifting intensity of her language and movements (by Annie-Lunnette Deakin-Foster), eloquently convey a range of sincere emotions with beauty and passion. When she’s content, she’s soft, smiling, and lyrical; when under stress, she’s loud, angry, and cursing, as she runs in place with increasing velocity or her body dodges and takes the metaphorical punches thrown at her.

Jade Anouka. Photo by Trévon James.

The changing moods of Anouka’s experiences are echoed and enhanced with the evocative lighting of Jen Schriever, original music by Renell Shaw, and sound and additional original music by Fitz Patton.

If you can’t make it to this profoundly affecting and uplifting live performance, Heart is also available for download and streaming on the Audible website; to listen to the audio version, click here. Either way, don’t miss it!

Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, without intermission.

Heart plays through Sunday, August 14, 2022, at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, NYC. For tickets (priced at $30 before July 24, and $45 thereafter), go online. All audience members must wear a mask.

Before you go, you can listen to Anouka discuss the show below:


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