by Bruce Norris.

Wyndham’s Theatre 32 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA To 7 May 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm .
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 482 5120/020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 8 February.

Smart location, smart play, very smart production.
There’s nothing Bruce Norris likes more than discomforting his audiences. He did it in 2007 with The Pain and the Itch (Royal Court), a merciless satire on middle class America and liberal guilt. Now he’s done it again with Clybourne Park, which opened last year (also Royal Court) and has hovered-up Best New Comedy awards with alarming ease.

Its transfer to the West End was inevitable and sits more or less happily in Wyndham’s. Norris cleverly latches on to a very 21st century obsession – being offended – and plunges into it with outrageous enthusiasm, turning tastelessness into an art form. Disability, feminism, homosexuality are sent flying in a second half tour de force that makes Bernard Manning look like a self-censoring monk.

The real centrifugal force of Clybourne Park, however, is race. Norris takes us back to the seminal play on the subject – Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 A Raisin in the Sun and the reaction of White neighbours to the incursion of a Black family into their smart neighbourhood.

Norris has appallingly politically incorrect fun turning this situation on its head as he shows the once White-dominated neighbourhood 50 years on. By 2009, a White family is trying to move into a predominantly Black community.

All the things people think but would never dream of saying in today’s `liberal’ society (on both sides of the Atlantic) come tumbling out mixed with a further ingredient – the grief of the white family over the suicide of their traumatised Korean veteran son (it could as easily apply to Vietnam or even Iraq/Afghanistan). By the end, Clybourne Park has become as much a haunted legacy play as an unspeakably sharp and funny one about outsiders and racial tensions.

Yet I’m not sure Norris’s strategy completely works. There’s something almost gratuitous about the war element as there is about Norris’s one-liners, particularly in relation to his deaf character. His black characters, too, are underwritten.

However, with Dominic Cooke’s near-perfect cast still in deliriously delicious form and Stephen Campbell Moore, replacing Martin Freeman, succeeding brilliantly as a double-time flesh-creeping bigot, the accolades remain well deserved.

Russ/Dan: Stuart McGuarrie.
Bev/Kathy: Sophie Thompson.
Francine/Lena: Lorna Brown.
Jim/Tom: Sam Spruell.
Albert/Kevin: Lucian Msamati.
Karl/Steve: Stephen Campbell Moore.
Betsy/Lindsey: Sarah Goldberg.
Kenneth: Michael Goldsmith.

Director: Dominic Cooke.
Designer/Costume: Robert Innes Hopkins.
Lighting: Paule Constable.
Sound: David McSeveney.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Vocal coach: Jessica Higgs.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Kate Hewitt.
Associate lighting: Stephen Andrews.

Clybourne Park was originally presented at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 26 August 26 2010 and opened at Wyndham’s Theatre on 28 January 2011.

2011-02-16 09:37:43

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