Colleague: How was the play?
Me: It was really good, really, really funny.
Colleague: What was it about?
It doesn't paint a very good picture of me or the play does it? But, how else would you describe Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park at the Royal Court and the audience reaction? But then that is the key to its success and why it has been getting rave reviews and is sold out no doubt. Norris' skill at handling such a delicate and inflammatory subject in a way that makes you laugh but equally question yourself is quite genius.
In a dialogue that is so tight you'd need a razor to prize it open we are told two stories about one house in Chicago. The first set in the late 50's when a middle-class white family are selling cheap to get away from bad memories which allows the first black family in the neighbourhood to move in. The second has fast forwarded to 2009 and finds the house dilapidated with its young, middle-class, white couple owners planning to pull it down and build something bigger but the local neighbourhood association is not best pleased with the plans.
Most the cast play dual roles but it is Martin Freeman's characters Karl & Steve which seem to light the touch paper in both periods for the ensuing debate and arguments about race, prejudice, culture and social standing.
The first half, while not generating as many laughs, sets up the second half in 2009 nicely where the neighbourhood may have changed, barriers and segregation broken down but the ghosts of prejudice remains. There is one deliciously funny but equally awkward scene in which Steve starts telling a joke, perceived to be racist by his wife, but which he believes is OK because a black man told it to him. It quickly escalates into a rally of racist jokes and whether they are offensive.
Again, it doesn't sound funny when you write it down but in its delivery it is and it makes you laugh a lot, not in a completely comfortable and guilt-free way and that is how it should be. The laughter it evokes is like turning a mirror onto yourself.
Queue for returns, I give it five stars. And if you don't believe me then it has an average review rating of 4.4/5 over at UpTheWestEnd.com
There was a post-show Q&A with most of the cast which I've written about separately
Whoops, forgot to add the RS/BW 6DS:
Well, this was a really easy one being at the Royal Court. At first @polyg poo-pooed my initially discoveries that David McSeveney the sound designer on Clybourne also did sound for Cock and Paule Constable did the lighting design for Clybourne and ...some trace of her.
These, apparently, weren't good enough so I continued my investigations, well scouring the programme and there is Sarah Goldberg who plays Betsey/Lindsay and was also in the Caryl Churchill 70th birthday reading of Ice Cream which Mr W also took part in. He was very scruffily dressed if I remember rightly and had a button missing on his shirt. I'll see if I can find a link to the post I wrote about it and add that in. Archives are a bit more tricky to navigate since my old Vox blog transferred over to Typepad.