Race relations in Scotland is often an untold story; not, though, in this powerful double-bill of new short plays from Glasgow-based Ankur Productions, which re-examines the history of race relations through the eyes of two young Scottish writer-performers.
The Ankur Haha - Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow
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First up is Lou Prendergast’s Fifty Shades Of Black, in which this eloquent singer-performer –with two male actors, and a cool three-piece band – explores the story of black people in Glasgow, starting with her own experience as the mixed-race child of a black man who ran a brothel in the city, then looping back into Glasgow’s deep connections with the Atlantic slave trade, and into the legacy of violent racial exploitation that still influences our culture, and sexual imaginations, today. It’s an ambitious agenda for a 45-minute show, and its themes need further development, but Prendergast offers a fine mix of personal reminiscence, historical document, dance and music, in a show with a huge, smart and challenging presence.
Nalini Chetty’s Finding Noor, by contrast, initially adopts an irritating student-send-up approach to the tale of the wonderful Noor Inayat Khan, a woman of Indian family who became a British agent in France during the Second World War, and was shot by the Gestapo. As three actresses in WAAF uniforms bicker over who gets to play Noor, the play takes a while to deliver the story of Noor’s recruitment, and the racist attitudes she encounters.
The tone steadies and deepens when Chetty herself takes to the stage to confront her three characters, and talk about what Noor’s story means to her; and she makes a fine job, rescuing a narrative that speaks volumes about racial stereotypes and assumptions in Britain, and should be more widely known.