(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.