Here at iSing we’ve always been big fans of Beverley Knight (she absolutely stole the show at the Quincy Jones tribute at the O2 in June) but her stylish riposte to internet trolls last week made us love her a little bit more.
Knight will play Emmeline Pankhurst in new musical Sylvia at the Old Vic in September. The show promises to push a few boundaries and will use dance, hip-hop, soul and funk music to tell the story of the formidable Pankhurst women – Emmeline, Sylvia and Adela.
But not everyone is as excited as we are at the prospect of a modern retelling of the suffragettes’ story. Last week some critics suggested that, given her skin colour, Knight was an unsuitable choice to play Pankhurst. They were quickly put back in their place by the singer wrote: “You mean like the hundreds of years of white actors playing Othello, Cleopatra, any number of Asian characters… like that?”
Knight elaborated further in a television interview on the BBC, explaining that her casting demonstrated the theatre world was becoming a more diverse and inclusive place.
Knight is one Britain’s greatest soul singers, although her achievements (eight studio albums and three MOBOs) often fly slightly under the radar. She has a strong, versatile and expressive voice and incredible control over her range and dynamics. Her musicality and her ability to interpret other people’s work have allowed her to move across genres and expand into musical theatre. Her career took on a new dimension in 2013 when she joined the West End production of The Bodyguard. Her performance as Rachel Marron (the role made famous by Whitney Houston in the film) won acclaim, with many suggesting her vocal performance gave Houston a run for her money. We’re inclined to agree.