Small Island by Helen Edmundson based on the novel by Andrea Levy. National Theatre Live to 25 June 2020. 5*****. William Russell.

This stunning production resonates all the more today now that the Black Lives Matter campaign is in full flow. It was powerful enough when first staged at the National Theatre last year and the review I posted then still stands. Sometimes when filmed these NFT Live productions lose some of what they had in the theatre, but this one stands out because the use of close-ups greatly enhance the experience and makes the performances of Aisling Loftus as Queenie, as the young woman, believing herself a widow, who takes in coloured lodgers in postwar London and Leah Harvey as Hortense, the school teacher from Jamaica, who joins her husband, acquired so she may come to the promised land all the more powerful. The action covers the years in the war when Jamaicans came to fight for the motherland, only to find that the promises were hollow, and then what happened to those who came on the Windrush.
The play confronts the audience with the racism inherent in the imperial world of Britain bestowing parliamentary democracy on nations it has plundered in the past and whose citizens it has employed to fight its wars but who now are needed only as a servant class and bitterly resented by the existing white working class. One may think one is not racist, but no white Briton watching this splendid adaptation of Levy’s novel will feel comfortable about their own behaviour. Watch it and learn, because this is theatre doing what it should do. You can get all the production and cast details with my original review. It was a sell out run and was lauded to the skies – epic, momentous, inspiring, moving and funny – because these are people who rise to the challenges they face with spirit.

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection