Tag Archives: Angela Wynter

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Plays, Reviews 2016

Boi Boi Is Dead
(reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Watford on 19 March)

What happens when a family member dies has been the starting point of plays throughout the ages. Zodwa Nyoni’s new play for Tiata Fahodzi Boi Boi Is Dead deals with the aftermath of the funeral for an African trumpet-player whose hopes of fame crumbled as surely as did his home and professional lives.

Mourning, not without a lethal dose of self-interest, has brought his brother and late-arriving not-quite-ex wife to the village where Boi Boi lived in a more lasting relationship with the woman he never quite got round to marrying (while she was bringing up his daughter as well as her own son).

When the curtain rises on Lucian Msamati’s production we are faced with a sunset back-cloth against which a trumpeter plays while the mourners solemnly process. Skeletonic poles stretch behind towards a far distant urban landscape. The settings, including black-and-white cut-outs which indicate the changes of scene are by Francisco Rodriguez-Weil, beautifully lit by Emma Chapman.

Ezzra (Andrew French) wants to take his niece Una (Debbie Korley) back with him to England; she’s not so certain. Miriam (Angela Wynter) would like things to remain as they are, though her son Petu (Joseph Adelakun), who has found himself on the wrong side of some very nasty people in the course of one of his disastrous get-rich-quick schemes, wants someone – anyone – to extricate him.

Enter the delayed widow Stella (Lynette Clarke), a would-be star with a tarnished reputation. What she wants is quite simple, in theory. That’s her daughter back where she can be manipulated to her mother’s benefit, the house in which Boi Boi and Miriam have been living and all the valuables and ready cash she can possibly grab.

The heart of the play lies in the exchanges between Stella and Miriam, characters one can understand even while enjoying their vitriolic encounters, thanks to some well-contrasted and deliberately over-the-top performances by Clarke and Wynter. The two young people trapped in their elders’ quarrels are also made sympathetic by Korley and Adelakun.

Michael Henry’s score encompasses traditional African chants as well as a more abrasive twelve-note instrumental sound. Boi Boi’s influence even after death is shown by Jack Benjamin both as the silhouetted image of the trumpeter with which we begin and the fallible, distinctly earthy man in reall life. The stylised movements choreographed by Coral Messam take us into a place with ancient roots where the certainties of the past are wilting under the force of the present. Not to mention the future.

Boi Boi Is Dead runs at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 28 March.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Plays