Monthly Archives: May 2018

Random/Generations

Random/Generations

at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester

26th May, 2018

Why can’t she cook?”

These two plays are by debbie tucker green in lower case, as she insists on styling herself. It’s a brave move for the Minerva theatre to present them to middle class, predominantly white theatre goers.

Even before the play has begun, the choir envelops us sings. We witness even when we aren’t watching. The choir focuses our attention with a lament to the dead.  The roll call of names speaks of the shared experience of communal grief; the outward manifestation of loss as well as the celebration of a life. “Another leaves us, another has gone”

Once the stage is set, the lyrical and haunting dialogue is delivered sparely and recycled, rhythmically, sometimes with a different emphasis. The repeated words become imbued with new meaning and the pauses in-between speak their own language.  From the start, smell of the communal cooking of a meal in a South African kitchen is both unifying and dividing.  We enjoy the flirtatious dance of a granddaughter and her suitor.  The memories it evokes as her parents and grandparents recall their own courtship.  Eventually only the grandparents are left, with the choir singing softly. Death has taken the rest. “I miss them”, says the grandfather. Each time, a member of the family leaves the stage – an imprint or an echo stays behind. The leaving is never explained, never addressed, and never mourned. Tucker Green is asking why we won’t just talk about it. What “it” is becomes inferred as we speculate.

Laurietta Essien is the final family member to leave, and when she does, we notice Okon Jones and Cleo Sylvestre have collected all the dying and disappearances that has come before, and let the final scene be a eulogy.

Clever as the play is, the inferred devastation of Aids in Africa depends  almost entirely on the singing of a South African choir to make it moving.

In the interval, the choir sings in the foyer. The circular stairs and balcony echo the rounded thrust stage, and everyone looks down on the choir below. The choir leader catches my eye with knowing acknowledgement that I am the sole black individual in the audience, and seemingly checks to see if he saw correctly and I smile back to confirm. Continue reading Random/Generations

Nine Night

                                                   

Nine Night by Natasha Gordon

At the Dorfman

12th May, 2018

“We are all fragments of someone to feel so disjointed”

Nine Night, also known as Dead Yard, refers to a Jamaican custom of nine nights of official mourning following the death of a loved one with lots of friends, food, drink, and dancing. The final night, Nine Night, is the most important: it’s when the spirit of the deceased is given a final farewell, and encouraged to leave the house.

Natasha Gordon’s nerve centre is the recently deceased Gloria, a Londoner whose roots lay in Jamaica. All the events take place in Gloria’s home, and as her dead body lingers upstairs, we meet her assorted family members: her cousin Maggie and Maggie’s husband Vince, her children in the UK, Robert and Lorraine, Robert’s (white, English) wife Sophie, Lorraine’s daughter Anita, and the daughter she left behind in Jamaica, Trudy.

Cecilia Noble (Maggie) delivers a tour de force as the nit-picking hypochondriac. Her eccentric habits of expression make her interfering comments hilarious.  We watch her recharging herself to deliver her memorable one  liners, noting that the Freedom Pass was the “Only decent ting me gat from dis teeving gov’ment.” And later, she worries that her dead sister’s bird’s-nest hairdo may “frighten Jee Suss!”

The play’s Caribbean humour is sometimes lost on a European audience which makes me smile. On the one hand, the Jamaican patois takes some time to adjust to. Nevertgeless, it is deployed effectively with Maggie’s Jamaican verbal acrobatics.  Her ripostes create moments of complete hilarity, supplemented by her personal injections of wisdom: “Be careful, not carefree”; “When yuh get to Heaven, yuh see, God will deal wid yuh”; “Save yuh eye water, niecey”. The linguistic mix of English and the West Indian verbal rhythms gives conversation sheer energy as well as a shared cultural delight in observing Jamaican mannerisms or cultural rituals which are lost on the world outside. Continue reading Nine Night

Tina

“Tina, The Musical”

at the Aldwych Theatre

8th May 2018

“Oh yes, I’m touched by this show of emotion

Should I be fractured by your lack of devotion?”

I recall Tina Turner’s career comeback as the once derided ‘fortysomething singing has-been’ in the early 1980s. Our children learned to recognise the foot acceleration in my car when “Simply the Best” rang out of the radio!  My only regret was not being able to go to one of her concerts.

So here was the next best opportunity to being at a Tina Turner rock concert: “Tina, The Musical”.

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, and loving singing in Baptist choirs, Tina (Adrienne Warren) learns to cope with her parents’ separation.  Many will know what came next, whether from Turner’s autobiography or the 1993 film “What’s Love Got to do with it”: a churchgoing youth that gives way over time to fervently held Buddhism, alongside episodes of abuse most often at the hands of an ex-husband, Ike Turner, who gives the soulful Anna Mae her newly alliterative stage name. In the first hour, light is shed also on other struggles: racism, ageism, Tina’s conflicted relationship with her mother, and her own struggles trying to raise a family while simultaneously building a career. Continue reading Tina