by Nathaniel Martello-White.
Young Vic Theatre (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 24 November 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45 Mat Wed & Sat 2.45pm.
Runs 2hrs No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Carole Woddis 14 November 2012.
Vivid view of tough times for Black actors.
Going for auditions has often been described as akin to being part of a cattle market. So imagine being a Black British actor, told you’re too pale, too black – things over which you have no control. It would break the most ambitious heart.
The author of Blackta, Nathaniel Martello-White, knows whereof he speaks. As a professional actor he has been through the mill. His play is the outcome, a ferocious assault on racism, the competitiveness of acting where every friend is also your fiercest competitive enemy, and the hierarchy of Blackness.
This, Martello-White’s first play, is unlikely to be his last. If he has yet to fuse his inner polemicist with the creative writer – Blackta would benefit enormously from a little judicious editing – he yet comes up with a telling theatrical metaphor, alluded to only, if continuously, as `The Thing’ embodying the process of investing in a futile exercise and continually banging your head against a brick wall.
You don’t have to be an actor to be able to relate to that, and in David Lan’s glittering punchbag of a production, dominated by a staircase (to hell?), a treadmill and neon-lit rectangle frame into which the putative actors throw themselves with ever greater desperation hoping against hope for the `green light’ indicating `success’, we feel their pain, viscerally.
As the tricks – or hoops – they’re required to go through get ever more humiliating, so, to an extent, Martello-White’s metaphorical display becomes excessive and repetitive. The theme of retreat into macho behaviour as a reaction too is hammered home. Curiously, it is one of the quietest characters on stage, Leo Wringer’s older actor waiting eternally for his audition, who becomes one of the most eloquent, by doing least.
Lan draws extraordinary performances from his all-male cast. All deserve congratulations. It’s an uncomfortable two hours – as it should be as a raw blast against White prejudice. Twenty five years ago writer George C Wolfe’s ferocious satire, The Colored Museum, made as radical an assault from an American perspective. Blackta is the British experience and sadly, no less withering.
Yellow: Howard Charles.
Black: Daniel Francis.
Younger Black: Michael Oku.
Dull Brown: Javone Prince.
Brown: Anthony Welsh.
Older Black: Leo Wringer.
Direction: David Lan.
Design: Jeremy Herbert.
Costumes: Chloe Lamford.
Movement: Joseph Alford.
Light: Jeremy Herbert & Nicki Brown.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Assistant director: Matthew Xia.
Trainee assistant director: Jade Lewis.
The World Premiere of Blackta opened at the Maria Theatre at the Young Vic on 25 October 2012.