Theatre review: Voices From The Black That I Am

Church Lady is one of four complex, linked monologues. Picture: Contributed
Church Lady is one of four complex, linked monologues. Picture: Contributed
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THE question of race lies at the heart of the history of the Commonwealth, now being explored in a short series of new lunchtime plays co-produced by A Play, A Pie And A Pint with the National Theatre of Scotland.

Voices From The Black That I Am - Oran Mor, Glasgow

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And that question has rarely been handled with more subtlety, poetry and fire than in this 45-minute drama by the Jamaican writer Karl O’Brien Williams, which takes the form of four monologues, subtly linked by recurring ideas which travel between the characters.

So we meet the “me and my white boy” woman, dressed in stylish African fabrics as she defends her right to a relationship with a white man. Then there’s Church Lady, a tooth-sucking censor of everything that challenges her own prissy form of Jamican churchianity. There’s the Kept Man, an agonised athlete tortured by the gay relationship that he cannot allow to define him, and the Brown Race, a black man so light-skinned that he is constantly confronted by questions of political and racial identity.

Williams weaves these monologues together in a poetic form that sometimes looks more like a sketch for a play than the play itself. Yet Gareth Nicholls’s production draws four wonderful performances from Tunji Lucas, Kat Beckford, Angela Wynter and Linden Walcott-Burton, evoking the inner lives of four people whose lives glow with an individual complexity that defies the easy shorthand of racial identity, even while race – and the history behind it – forms a vital part of each story, waiting to be told.

Seen on 12.05.14