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