Mika Johnson's Pink Lemonade is a powerful fusion of spoken word and narrative, navigating queer life and falling for the cis-het stereotype. Daniel Perks can empathise:

I spent many of my formative queer years being a doormat, a twisted fantasy, a vessel for straight uni boys to experiment on before they ran back to heteronormativity. I was literally used and abused – mentally, emotionally, physically. And I thought that was all I deserved.

If only I had an ounce of the courage and confidence that Mika Johnson shows in Pink Lemonade.

Johnson is attracted to Simmi, a girl who leads them on, talking constantly about dick but still letting Johnson eat her out at every opportunity. It’s all in Simmi’s fear of being labelled a lesbian, or as bisexual, or being labelled at all.

Fuck the labels. And fuck those who think they can fetishise the queer community.

Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy
Mika Johnson (image courtesy of Max Zadeh)

I understand the difficulty in breaking away from these tropes – my dream is to do away with categorisation. But those boxes validate and ego inflate, they surreptitiously encourage each of us to assimilate. As in so many stories, Johnson looks through a one-directional mirror and does not realise they are a token commodity until they have been sucked in.

Pink Lemonade is a powerful fusion of spoken word, performance art and storytelling, all under the crystal-clear direction of Emily Aboud. It shows Johnson’s desire to connect, to find a community and enjoy in mutual sexual gratification without being branded or othered.

And the manipulative succubus of modern, experimentational cis-het culture are more than happy to latch onto any insecurity.

Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy
Mika Johnson (image courtesy of Max Zadeh)

As an observer, I notice the signs in Pink Lemonade. I have never learnt to guard against the unattainable and so time and time again I fall. I lust, covet and desire men who will never be able to give me the connection I yearn for, and as a result the value I place on myself – my self-worth – consistently circles the drain.

The most dangerous emotion of all is hope, the hope that one day something will happen, something will change. That these people will wake up one morning and be miraculously sexually liberated. Is it hope, or is it desperation?

Johnson manages to break away in Pink Lemonade and I wish I had their strength.

It’s visible in their willingness to be vulnerable on stage, as well as to ooze swag and erupt with rage. Because queer life feels like a performance, a display cabinet for society to see and judge, trying us on for size before returning us to the rack. And at times we don’t know who we are for all the performing, pandering to each and every whim.

“Do I love my body”?

Johnson asks at the start of the show. They don’t know any more – it doesn’t feel so much theirs as it does a rental, available to the next Simmi who comes along lustfully sipping their lemon drop and flirting shamelessly.

Pink Lemonade Assembly Roxy
Mika Johnson

But Pink Lemonade does not need a crutch, it does not need a label. Johnson knows that they are special, and proudly puts it out there for us all to see,

“I wrote these words to realign myself”.

If only I had their talent, creative prowess and courage to stand tall, queer and proud.

★★★★☆

Pink Lemonade is now playing at Assembly Roxy until 25 August 2019, before transferring to the HighTide Festival in Aldeburgh on 10-15 September 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.