Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Tucker Green’

debbie tucker green is a highly original playwright, and the first scene of this three-part study of modern racism and its historical origins is brilliant, a mother and son discussing how behaviour, posture, body language and facial expressions will be interpreted when he is apprehended. From here, we see what happens when a playwright directs their own work i.e. no-one to challenge her indulgence in overlong scenes which lead to more becoming less.

The first part is a series of scenes, mostly monologues and duologues, where the participants, British and American, all black, share their experiences of racism. It’s brilliant and insightful at the start, but loses you as it goes on and on. The second part is what seems to be a series of discussions between an arrogant, patronising white professor and his black female student about the motivation for gun crimes, and the different interpretation of black and white perpetrators, again interesting but overlong. The third part is a series of video Vox Pop interviews, firstly by white Americans reading out segregation period rules and then white Brits doing the same about slavery, yet again pushed too far.

The playwright is making a direct link between slavery and segregation and contemporary racism, which is perfectly valid, but she fails to acknowledge any progress or offer any hope, and I think there is reason for both. Beautifully performed on a spare stage, the play’s only problem is its structure and length, 2h10m without a break. By lacking objectivity and labouring her points, I felt she weakened her argument, which some judicious editing could have dealt with, hence my point about directing her own work. Who was there to challenge the playwright and help transform the writing from the page to the stage more effectively?

A disappointment from a playwright I have so far admired.

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debbie tucker green has a very distinctive playwriting style. realistic, overlapping dialogue, sometimes with a non-linear narrative. characters called man, woman, x or y. moments of intensity alternating with moments of humour. puzzles for you to solve for yourself. oh, and a clear dislike of capital letters.

This latest piece is staged on three sides of the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs with the audience on fixed but swivelling stools in regimented rows within. It’s uncomfortable and the sight lines are poor. The ‘stage’ is like a green corridor open on one side. The five characters move around and make lines and shapes on the walls using chalk. In the first half of the 80 minutes a young couple seem to live their whole life, love, have children, argue, split. In the next quarter, an older couple bicker and snipe. In the last quarter, the older man is with a younger woman, who may be the young couple’s now adult daughter, talking about the issue of age difference.

Lashana Lynch and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr are terrific as the young couple (A & B) and Gary Beadle is great as the (older) Man. We get a lot less of Meera Syal as Woman and Shvorne Marks as Young Woman, but their contributions are excellent nevertheless. It’s a very original staging by tucker green herself, with a clever design by Merle Hensel. I’m not sure what it’s point is, and the discomfort did mar my concentration, but it’s an intriguing piece nonetheless.

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Debbie Tucker Green’s new play, which she also directs, may only an hour long, but it packs a real emotional punch and really makes you think.

It takes place in a characterless, impersonal public sector meeting room. We’ve all sat on those chairs under those fluorescent lights and taken a drink from that water cooler. Jon Bausor’s clever design makes it even more cold and cavernous. Characters One and Two (there are no names) work for some government department responsible for liaison with victims of crime. Three, and her family, have been victims, but we don’t know the crime or when it occurred.

One & Two have a letter for Three from the perpetrator of the crime. The victim also has decisions to make independent of this. They are following the procedures they have been trained to follow, so their impersonality matches the environment, but they aren’t fully competent and certainly not ‘in harmony’ with one another and this makes matters much worse, though it also provides humour along with anger and shock at Three’s treatment and predicament. We learn what decisions Three has to make, which is the core of the play.

Like Mike Bartlett’s recent plays Bull and Game, it uses its structure, style and brevity to heighten the emotional impact if its subject, take you in its grip and present you with a moral debate. You can’t help thinking what you would do and then question your own choice. A lot of its impact comes from the stunning performance of Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Three, but excelkent performances by Clarire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza contribute much to its success. The long silence at the end was in part of the ‘is it over?’ kind, but also in part because much of the audience were in shock.

It’s the third great show I’ve seen at the Royal Court in six weeks; things are looking up.

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