IN BRIEF Radical, provocative play which quietly wields its power to change minds
I love a play that gives you homework.
The setting is a manicured suburban American house where the inhabitants are a black family who are preparing for ….Grandma’s Birthday. Yup, a setup that was creaking with age way back in the 50s when Lucy was still mocking Ricky’s Cuban accent. This? This won the Pulitzer?, I sat there thinking. The script ploughs along – it’s almost like an 80s sitcom.
In fact, it takes a while before things start to get interesting. But when it does, well, hang on to your headgear.
In order not to spoil the show’s surprises I must limit my words, for this is a show that deserves to be discovered on its own terms.
The subjects raised are race and racism and how the projections of stereotyping and ignorance have placed an overwhelming pressure upon black people. Only the youngest member of the family, daughter Keisha is not yet fully tainted, carrying the hope of change, and so she becomes a sort of conduit between fantasy and reality. As the show progresses it becomes “infected” by outside forces and it escalates into bizarre territory before being re-grounded by the daughter who initiates a brave coup de theatre which pulls the show’s title sharply into focus and sends the audience out quietly buzzing.
The ensemble work is excellent from the cast who work tightly throughout this challenging staging. Particularly memorable is the young daughter Keisha (Donna Banya) who literally closes the show on her own. Director Nadia Latif has worked with great care to ensure that audiences can still piece it together despite the text’s challenging and fragmented nature. In my one small criticism, I did feel that the middle section of the script was rather too unstructured and it flailed about before finding a way to its conclusion.
As a wake-up call this works superbly, but it says so much more. This is daring, disturbing, radical theatre that challenges – and then changes- the way that you think, and I recommend it to you.
FAIRVIEW runs at The Young Vic until January 23rd 2020. Details and tickets here