A Kind of People by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. The Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Downstairs, Sloane Square, London SW1 to 18 January 2020. 4****. William Russell.

A Kind of People
By Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti.
The Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Downstairs, Sloane Square, London Sw1W 8AS to 18 January 2020.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7543 5000.

Review: William Russell 12 December.

At first it looks like it has been inspire by Abigail’s Party as it begins with a party held by Nicky Sinclair, who is white, and her husband Gary, who is black. They live in a Council flat that looks IKEA furnished and have three children. Their friends who have come round include drippy Mark, a friend since school days and a permanent hanger on who even has his own keys to the flat and works for the same company as Gary, Karen, his no nonsense still single sister, and a Pakistani couple with a son they are determined to get into the right school by whatever means it takes. Also there is the inevitable cuckoo character, Victoria, drunk and getting drunker, who happens to be Gary’s boss and is well out of her comfort zone which does not include council flats occupied by a couple who are of different colour.
It is an explosive mixture and in due course things go horribly wrong. Gary, who is painfully conscious of his position in society, justifiably so perhaps. but all the same it makes him very difficult to handle, is up for promotion. He does not get it and he tells Victoria exactly why. He is dead right, but she too is as damaged by society today, a woman in a job required to run men who is really not up to it, but probably there because she looks good rather than she is any good. He shatters her self confidence and her revenge is to cost him his job. But the lost job ruins Nicky’s hopes for the future for her children and she goes to find out why, after which things become even more painful.
It is a terrific portrait of the lives some in multi ethnic Britain today, and Claire-Louise Cordwell and Richie Campbell create a completely believable couple. At the end we see them as they were at the beginning of a relationship that started in school and painful watching it proves to be since we know the tribulations that lie ahead and the climax to those which was utterly shocking.
A Kind of People is the sort of play one expects to see at the Royal Court, one which questions assumptions, challenges the audience’s own perception of race relations in Britain, makes one question how one may be racist without realising it while professing to be as liberal as can be on the issue. It stimulates challenges and provokes. The portrait of the Moslem couple, Mo and Anjum, is just as unsparing. They are better off, obsessed with fitting in to things English, and have rented a flat near the second best good school just in case the one they and the Sinclairs want their school friend sons to go to does not happen. Gary cannot play by the rules. They can. His sister Karen, who is completely realist, has a marvellous put down when he is ranting on about black people’s place in society – she points out she is probably the only black person he knows. It has been well directed by Michael Buffong and there is a cleverly designed set by Anna Fleischle which transforms itself from council flat to Victoria’s office quite seamlessly. The Court is ending the year with what really is this election week a play for today.
Gary: Richie Campbell.
Mark: Thomas Coombes.
Nicky: Claire-Louise Cordwell.
Mo: Asif Khan.
Karen: Petra Letang.
Victoria: Amy Morgan.
Anjum: Manjinder Virk.

Director: Michael Buffong.
Designer: Anna Flieischle.
Lighting Designer: Aldeen Malone.
Sound Designer: Emma Laxton.
Movement Director: Vicki Igbokwe.
Vocal Coach: Hazel Holder.
Production photograph: Tristram Kenton.

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