Tag Archives: A Raisin in the Sun

Clybourne Park

(reviewed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester on 13 April)

Bruce Norris’ 2010 play picks up the closing scenes of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun with its Black Younger family about to move to Clybourne Park, a White suburb of Chicago.

Norris’ acerbic tragi-comedy has two stories, one set in 1959 and the other in 2009. Daniel Buckroyd’s new touring production for Colchester’s Mercury Theatre has the packing cases which became so prominent in A Raisin in the Sun lurking on the fringes of Jonathan Fensom’s set.

Only these are for the move of Russ (mark Womack) and Bev (Rebecca Manley); They are the couple who have sold to the Youngers, following a family tragedy. Carl (Ben Deery), having failed to deter the Youngers from their move is now desperate to prevent Russ and Bev – who may be ignorant of the skin colour of the new owners of their house – from completing the sale.

What concerns Carl is a mixture of in-bred racism coupled with a desire to maintain the status quo and to prevent the (as he sees it) inevitable meltdown in value of the whole Clybourne Park development. Deery controls Carl’s increasingly paranoid diatribes as he corrals William Troughten’s church minister Jim and his own pregnant deaf wife Betsry (Rebecca Oldfield) into half-hearted support.

Manley’s portrait of a wife and mother whose whole existence has been thrown out of kilter is equally three-dimensional. Her relationship with her Black maid Francine (Gloria Onitiri) is a brittle one; she values the help but ignores the person. Onitari gives us an apparently quiet, pliable woman with a rich life – a husband Albert (Woie Sawyerr) who excels in a skilled job and three children.

Russ and Bev’s tragedy is revealed slowly, and not fully until the second act. In this Lena (Onitiri) is concerned that the would-be purchasers of her house are proposing radical changes, practically a re-build. Womack’s bitterly authoritative Russ (a man who thinks, feels and suffers) is now transformed into Dan, the sort of workman you probably would be better off not employing.

The dénouement takes us into another dimension, removed from the reaism of everything which has gone before. By this time the audience is thoroughly gripped by the several dramas which have played out before it. This is an ending which was there from the beginning, but we needed to tease it out for ourselves.

Clybourne Park runs at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester until 23 April with matinées on 16, 21 and 23 April. The national tour runs until 28 May and includes the Arts Theatre, Cambridge (9-14 May).

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2016

A Raisin in the Sun

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 17 February)

Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play about a Black Chicago family attempting to grope its way out of its cycle of second-class non-success has resonances for modern audiences, whatever their skin colour.Aspiration always needs a foundation.

If widowed Mrs Younger (Angela Wynter) is the lynch-pin of her family – married son, his wife, their son and student daughter – it is the daughter-in-law Ruth (Alisha Bailey) who keeps the family on track in their cramped apartment. Beneatha (Susan Wokama) is as stroppy as only a girl with frustrated ambition can be. Walter (Ashley Zhangazha) sees acquiring a liquor store as the easy path to riches and a new life.

Director Dawn Walton takes the first scenes at a brisk pace, perhaps too much so for an audience unaccustomed to the cast’s accents. Her designer, Amanda Stoodley has created a tour-friendly and realistic box set – you feel how cramped three adults, a teenage girl and a growing boy (his bed is the sofa) must find it.

There is great sincerity in the performances with Bailey in particular creating a real daughter-in-law, wife and mother more or less succeeding in keeping those around her in balance. The catalyst for the drama is the $10,000 life insurance from her late husband; spending it is something on which all Mrs Younger’s family have different ideas.

Hansberry’s ending offers a suggestion of hope, though this is just as likely to be blighted as to materialise. That new home in a hitherto all-White suburb, a new baby for Ruth and Walter, a life in medicine with her Nigerian suitor for Bneatha – will they ever materialise, or will they evaporate as Walter’s shop-owning dream has already done?

A Raisin in the Sun runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 20 February with matinées on 18 and 20 February. It plays at the Palace Theatre, Watford 8-12 March as part of its national tour.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2016