debbie tucker green’s decentralisation of power begins in her title. in her very authorship.
what must be grasped is that her writing is specific for black bodies in theatre. she writes that world because it is what she knows but also because it is a powerful political rebellion. yes this show could be performed by a white cast but really it shouldn’t be because that isn’t who it is written about or for.
tucker green remains an elusive figure in british theatre. her lack of interviews, scholarly investigation and profile often make her work seem impenetrable. in fact, it is much the opposite. the language is rhythmic and cuts off, perhaps not what we are used to in an age of television scripts and lingering shakespearian soliloquising, but it is more real than any drawn out monologue. this is how we speak. this is how she gives voice.
notably, there are written silences.
the silences are poetic just as the language is.
sometimes the silences say more. maybe they always say more.
tucker green’s work is so visceral, live, electric. it sparks and flicks. it bites. it bounces off the page into the mouths of the actors and out into the world. it is fire, it is passion, it is delicate. a profoundly follows three couples. inevitably intertwined, the structure of the stories is reminiscent of the three stoning mary narratives that neatly intersect at the final moment.
we sit on swivel chairs, separated into two sections and surrounded on three sides by a raised platform. the floor, walls, and seats, jutting out at perpendicular angles, are all the same blue-green tone. the whole set is a blank canvas, waiting to be patterned with the circles and runes drawn on throughout the evening by the six actors. i was entranced by merie hensel’s design. not only was the jerwood upstairs unrecognisable, the colour schemes worked beautifully. it was a live art installation cleverly masked as a theatre set. the chalk dust caked the actors’ hands, reminding us of the shadows that have followed them from previous scenes and from their lives before the scenes and the after, even if we don’t think about the after.
the acting is sharply placed. the ages of all the characters shift dramatically and some transform in front of us. we are confronted with a linear narrative that is presented through a structure that disrupts. the actors manage and control this eloquently, with grace and force. they are all standout performances. i am whisked away and yet we (the audience) are really all too present.
debbie is political without being overt. she changes the game while refusing to participate in it. she manages to be poetic without ever being wanky, something i am clearly yet to achieve.
[picture credit Stephen Cummiskey]