TROUBLE IN MIND
by Alice Childress.
The Print Room, the Coronet, 103 Nottinghill Gate, London W11 3LB to 14 October 2017.
Mon- Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 3642 6606.
Review: William Russell 21 September.
A sprawling but splendid play
Tanya Moodie gives a superb performance as Wiletta Mayer, a coloured actress starring in a play set in the American south who rebels against what she is expected to perform. Childress’ play, written in 1955, is about the rehearsals of a play Chaos in Belleville about a young black man who exercises his right to vote. It is an anti lynching play with all the right liberal credentials – the second act opens with a stunning white racial supremacy speech delivered by the leading man which sounds like something from a Donald Trump supporters rally today. But it is written by a white man, directed by a white man, and Wiletta, as the rehearsals proceed, gets more and more upset by what she and the other black actors are expected to do.
The young man who voted is her son, and instead of telling him to cut and run for safety as the lynch mob is on its way, she and the other coloured actors are expected to turn to the white land owner boss and ask him to take the boy to the sheriff for safe custody. She knows it just does not make sense.
It is a wordy piece and the first act as they assemble to work with the tyrannical white director, played to the hilt by Jonathan Slinger, is a bit sluggish, but it all takes off beautifully after the opening of the second half when Geoff Leesley as Bill O’Wray, the actor playing the plantation owner gets, that white supremacy speech to deliver. Just as the topicality of what he is saying hits home, O’Wray admits he does not like to eat with the coloured members of the cast and Childress’ message comes across loud and clear.
Director Laurence Boswell screws up the tension as the marvellous Moodie gets ever more agitated by what she is expected to do, while the rest of the excellent cast provide in which to showcase both her performance and the play – the Coronet, a ramshackle onetime cinema, may have new seating but there is no leg room. Endurance is the name of the game.
Wiletta Mayer: Tanya Moodie.
Henry: Pip Donaghy.
John Nevins: Nicuti Gatwa.
Millie Davis: Faith Alabi.
Sheldon Forrester: Ewart James Walters.
Judy Sears: Daisy Boulton.
Al Manners: Jonathan Slinger.
Eddie Fenton: Andrew Alexander.
Bill O’Wray: Geoff Leesley.
Director: Laurence Boswell.
Designer: Polly Sullivan.
Lighting Designer: Colin Grenfell..
Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls.
Costume Supervisor: Holly Henshaw.
Dialect Coach: Elspeth Morrison.
Assistant Director: Fay Lomas.