by Lisa Evans.

Theatre Centre Tour to 27 November 2010.

new tour 7-31 March 2011.

Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 October at Unicorn (Clore Theatre) London.

Empowering, shocking, touching.

Those were adjectives from a 13+ school-group audience at the Unicorn when Theatre Centre director Natalie Wilson asked immediately after the performance for some single words to describe their reactions. They are all spot-on.

Lisa Evans’ splendid, seamless script interweaves experiences of poor Black New Orleans inhabitants after Hurricane Katrina brought flooding five years ago.

Only the trad. jazz opening with its happy peasant merrymaking is imprecise. Once the waters rise the constellation of individuals surprised and then trapped by the floods take on startling reality through a sparkling no-foot-wrong cast. There’s Darlene Charles as the older woman awaiting dialysis unaware life’s changed all round her, or the loving brother and sister caught in an airless attic – Charles and Uriah Manning comforting each other trustingly as they await the help that won’t be coming.

And, central thread to events, Amber Cameron’s resolute Maya, the survivor who keeps alive the hope her imprisoned brother might have escaped; might even be the ‘red bandanna’ hero Shane Frater plays. Each actor’s multiple roles, created with instant depth and impressive sympathy, swirl around as much as the flood-water that overcame the city’s poorer areas.

And it’s the poverty more than the hurricane that’s the real subject. Jean Chan’s set skilfully allows space for Alesandra Seutin’s choreographic movement, while house and car rooftops suggest the flooding. Evans, though, moves on to comments about the politics of a nation ignoring those who’re poor and Black. So, people were contained at gunpoint by the national guard on the sole bridge from the city.

Wilson’s direction highlights each individual hope and fear amid the flow and variety of events, as a sense of a town quarter builds up from the individuals so well portrayed. It’s not idealised – a thief grabs someone’s precious bottle of water – but play and production find a place between outright protest and making the characters passive victims.

Apart from the public performances there are performances in schools. School audiences deserve this level of theatre, and anyone interested in clear, incisive, drama should see it. Anyone, that is, prepared to be empowered, shocked and touched.

Cast: Amber Cameron, Darlene Charles, Shane Frater, Uriah Manning.

Director: Natalie Wilson.
Designer: Jean Chan.
Lighting: Aideen Malone.
Sound: Dan Steele.
Choreographer: Alesandra Seutin.
Voice consultant: Claudette Williams.
Dramaturg: Gwenda Hughes.
Associate director: Lawrence Evans.

2010-10-07 00:55:43

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