by Roy Williams.
Tricycle Theatre 269 Kilburn High Road NW6 7JR In rep to 19 December 2009.
8pm 1, 2, 18, 19 Dec Mat 2 Dec 2pm, 19 Dec 4pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
TICKETS 020 7328 1000.
Review: Carole Woddis 16 November.
Inside ‘inside’, poignantly explored.
Where would we be without Nick Kent? Twenty five years as the Tricycle’s artistic director and he is still coming up with provocative new ventures.
Under the title ‘Not Black & White’ he has put together a superb acting ensemble and a trilogy of plays looking at contemporary British society from the perspective of Black writers. In the programme he quotes a stunning statistic, "that across London Black and Asian children outnumber White British children by about six to four". He might also have quoted a prison population of disproportionately high numbers from the Black and Asian community.
In Category B, first of the trilogy, Roy Williams chooses not to dwell on the reasons for that high proportion but rather to indict the system by exploring the relationship between prison warders and inmates. In the past this relationship has thrown up some extraordinarily powerful work, namely Rat in the Skull (Ron Hutchinson) Tennessee Williams’ rediscovered Not About Nightingales and more recently, Rona Munro’s Iron.
Roy Williams, with his terrific ear for urban speech, provides a searing portrait of life behind bars, where (top) dog eating dog applies as much to the warders as it does to the prisoners. Racial tension hardly comes into it. Instead, heart-rendingly, Category B is about manipulation at its most basic. Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s head `screw’, Angela, plays prisoner off against prisoner and warder off against warder in order to keep the power balance.
This would be explosive enough but Williams also weaves into it a story of particular poignancy: a father and son (Karl Collins’ Errol and Ami Ameen’s Rio) unbeknown to each other, landing up in the same prison with a mother, Chandra (a shattering performance from Jaye Griffiths) battling unsuccessfully to keep her young boys safe.
There is no more sobering example on the London stage of the awful effects of peer pressure than in Rio’s confession to Errol of the gang rape in which he was a perpetrator; or Errol’s realisation of his inability to safeguard Rio when forcibly released from prison. A desperately sad, truthful slice of life.
Angela: Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
David: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Rio: Ami Ameen.
Andy: Robert Whitelock.
Saul: Jimmy Akingbola.
Riz: Abhin Galeya.
Errol: Karl Collins.
Chandra: Jaye Griffiths.
Reece: John Boyega.
Director: Paulette Randall.
Designer: Rosa Maggiora.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Tom Lishman.