A RAISIN IN THE SUN
by Lorraine Hansberry.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square To 20 February 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 13 Feb 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 19 Feb.
Post-show discussion 18 Feb.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 February.
A magnificent blast from the past.
It’s a mark of the strength of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play that if someone gave it the reverse treatment given Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, playing it with an all-White cast there’d still be oodles of impressive content. As it is, the 1959 drama is devastating in Michael Buffong’s production. Its high-voltage theatricality may bypass some of the gruelling day-to-day experience of the poor Black Younger family in fifties Chicago, but its vivacity makes their lives spill over into the world seated around.
You might want to rush to Ruth’s help when she collapses, join a dance with young Beneatha, or stand amazed when she goes ethnic in hairstyle and choreography. Or become infected with Walter Lee’s optimism and frustration as he tries to persuade the matriarchal Lena to invest her insurance money in his planned liquor-store.
These people are often flawed, at times ridiculous, but they are deeply real and fully-conceived by their author, their lives intertwined in a dramatic structure both intricate and uncontrived. The emotional impact is terrific because their moments of hope and triumph rise over their faults and misjudgments, or from the patient resilience with which Ruth and Lena sustain themselves and their family with belief in their future.
Where she might have called on her own family’s experience of violent racial prejudice, Hansberry powerfully opts for restraint, showing-up the sole White character by his own belief in his fairness; though Tom Hodgkins also shows the contemptuous impatience and threat beneath his smiling reasonableness.
And when the final moment of assertion comes from the hardly fault-free Walter Lee, Ray Fearon has moved through table-top exaltation and window-ledge clasping fury to self-flagellating humiliation as, his plans all fallen-apart, he enacts on his knees an archetypal fantasy of submission. His final reversal becomes a remarkable triumph of himself and his ethnic identity.
Triumphant too are Jenny Jules as the home-sustaining Ruth, Tracy Ifeachor’s Beneatha, whose future as a doctor, a sign of progress, hangs in the balance, and Starletta DuPois’ magnificent Lena, in whom hope and the grinding years co-exist with a massive humanity.
Ruth Younger: Jenny Jules.
Travis Younger: Damani Holness/Claudien Nkundibiza/Vivien Nkundibizia/Lyndon Rhoden.
Walter Lee Younger: Ray Fearon.
Beneatha Younger: Tracy Ifeachor.
Lena Younger: Starletta DuPois.
Joseph Asagai: Damola Adelaja.
George Murchison/Removal Man: Simon Coombs.
Karl Lindner: Tom Hodgkins.
Bobo/Removal Man: Ray Emmet Brown.
Director: Michael Buffong.
Designer: Ellen Cairns.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Steve Brown.
Fights Kate Waters.