IT’S JUST A NAME: Don Kinch
Nu Century Arts with Theatre of Darkness
Birmingham Rep The Door: 0121 245 4455
Runs: 1h 40m, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 23 October 2002
An absorbing look at the tensions within the black communities.
IT’S JUST A NAME is an absorbing look at the tensions created within the black communities as society around them and they, as part of that society, change. There are villains, yes, there are bullies and they are just as much a threat to black people themselves as they are perceived to be to white people by white people but the threat to positive change is not only from them. And threats are not all from one direction.
Don Kinch sets his play in a barber’s encapsulating his play’s debate in a debate about the barber shop’s name: should it be Ainsley’s barber’s or a unisex hair salon. Ainsley is getting on, thirty years in the business and his assistant, Joe, wants to move up-market, matching the shop to the upwardly mobile area. Ainsley sees the black youth as their own worst enemy whatever you try and build up they smash down. Joe sees the positive side and refuses to be beaten.
Kinch explores his themes through the characters who come through Ainsley’s shop, whether it’s young Dog, foolishly falling into a life of crime while thinking he’s finding his way out of it; gentle, but quietly street-wise youth Jason (a touchingly comic performance from Leon Mills) and a host of others.
Ainsley’s long-term friend Cuthbert a comic performance topped off with an Aldi bag from Alex de Marcus much appreciated by the audience is to leave the UK for a retirement place he’s had built back home: he’s uncertain whether he should go or not. In a way, all the characters are engaged in journeys and, as Ainsley says; ‘You’ve got to know what you’re taking and what you’re leaving behind.’ Finding out what these are is the crux of the play.
Alistair Bain’s Ainsley is a lovely old chap at sea in a world changing faster than he is comfortable with and, we sense, longing for his retirement. David Carr’s Joe is a terrific centre to the play. The sheer energy of the character and actor and Carr’s open honesty and commitment make it difficult to take your eyes off him.
Director Tyrone Huggins has kept the pace swift and enabled the humanity and warm humour to blossom. It’s a bit rough round the edges at the moment but if writer and director can give provide more clarity and precision it should have a successful time on tour next year.