by Michael Harvey
Black Arts Development Project, Leicester Haymarket, 25-29 September 2001
Running time: 1hr 40mins One interval
TICKETS 020 7242 7040 (Cochrane); 0116 253 9797 (Haymarket)
Review EK Hudson 5 September 2001 at Library Theatre, Manchester.
How deep is your love?
Black Arts Development Project’s multi-media Black Love shows us Mark Ollerton. a young, black, gay businessman runs a successful advertising agency. He discovers his homosexuality at an early age, yet continues to hide it from those around him, in particular from his controlling mother, Connie.
Highly successful at work and emotionally reticent in his personal relations, Mark remains in denial until love is sparked once again by a charming new employee. Joseph, also black, does not envisage a problem when he persuades Mark to "confess" to his mother that they are lovers. What follows is a tale of denial, confession and family values.
The piece gets off to a shaky start but picks up pace as soon as we enter the crazy advertising world of MARK THIS! with Mark’s unbelievably camp (white) work colleague and his glamorous (white ) P A. The powerplay between Mark and camp Clive presents an interesting exploration of sexual politics in the workplace, if a little heavy-handedly at times.
Episodic in style, the short scenes are interspersed with flickering TV screens, flashing up advertising slogans and slices of home -video footage from Mark’s mother’s trip to the Caribbean.
Although diverting, and in places both touching and hilarious, the play merely scratches the surface of a potentially fascinating subject. A fuller exploration of what it means to be homosexual and black would have lent more depth to an otherwise superficial script. For instance, how and why was Joseph’s experience of being black and gay different from Mark’s?
The cast is strong, particularly Christine Brennan as the neurotic PA and Andy Burke as the persuasive Joseph Bousquet, who both add dynamism and humanity to their characters. If only for the stunning performance of Flo Wilson as Connie Ollerton it is definitely worth a whirl.