Notes From The Field, Royal Court London, 5*****: William Russell



by Anna Deavere Smith


The Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to 23 June 2018.

Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Thu 2.30pm

Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7565 5000

Review: William Russell 16 June.


A devastating account of the American nightmare

Anna Deveare Smith’s return to London for the first time in three decades in this one woman play she has written based on some 250 interviews conducted in different areas of the United States is triumphant return by any standards. She holds the stage with complete assurance. Backed by some brilliantly chosen and totally devastating videos and with the simplest changes of costume she transforms herself into different people, different sexes as if it were the easiest thing in the world somehow managing to change her posture, her voice to become totally different but recognisable people She shows how the American dream has passed most black and native Americans by and should one think it is a verdict on the Trump years the intriguing thing is that those interviews were conducted when Obama was president. In other words the American dream is some Americans nightmare.

Apart from someone to hand her props she is alone except for Marcus Shelby who provides the music on the bass. As a feat of memory it is stunning, but it is, of course, more than that. The statistics flash up behind her, videos and mobile phone records of events are projected and the parade of people recounting what it is like to be black or native American seems endless. It is described as a play, but it is more of dramatised documentary and it is agit prop theatre with a vengeance. Students, teachers, activists, the Mayor of Stockton, a Yuruk Indian fisherman with a violent past, pastors, mothers, delinquent children all deliver witness.

It is a night to remember and one to send you out in despair because of it was this bad then what does the future hold when America is being made great again? Standing ovations, not always deserved, tend to be the norm today. She got one and it was thoroughly deserved as performer and for the message she brought to the theatre.

Anna Deavere Smith.

Marcus Welby.

Director: Leonard Foglia.

Music composed & performed by Marcus Shelby.

Costume Design: Ann Hould-Ward.

Lighting Design: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer.

Video Design: Elaine J.McCarthy.

Sound Design: Leon Rothenberg.

Text supetvisor/On stage assistant: Daniel Rattner

Photograph – Joan Marcus


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