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Review: A Kind of People, Royal Court Theatre - funny, tough and revealing drama that packs a lot of punch

When Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Behzti was cancelled in Birmingham because of protests she said in a Guardian interview: “Theatre is not necessarily a cosy space, designed to make us feel good about ourselves”.

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A Kind of People, Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

And while A Kind of People generates a lot of laughter it is nonetheless a uncompromising reflection of modern British society that sometimes makes for uncomfortable viewing.

At the centre of the story are mixed-race couple Gary (Richie Campbell) and Nicky (Claire-Louise Cordwell) who have three children.

Their council maisonette is a constant bustle of friends and family - gatherings for birthdays, preparations for school fairs and strategy planning for getting their kids into the local grammar school.

Friends since school

Mark (Thomas Coombes) is an old school friend who has his own key, Mo (Asif Khan) is also an old school friend and he and Anjum's (Manjinder Virk) son is friends with Gary and Nicky's eldest.

Gary's sister Karen (Petra Letang) is also a regular visitor and has recently split up with her husband.

There is a comfortable and familiar buzz when they gather: friendly banter, old jokes, routine teasing and withering looks.

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Claire-Louise Cordwell and Richie Campbell in A Kind of People, Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

But their chatter is pregnant with comment on their aspirations and relationships.

When Gary's boss Victoria (Amy Morgan) tags along and gets very drunk her behaviour not only changes the mood of the party but makes Gary look at his life anew.

After that night, the play is a slow unravelling of relationships and dreams, the pressure gradually building.

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Amy Morgan and Richie Campbell in A Kind of People, Royal Court. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Bhatti doesn't waste a single character, each is fully drawn and beautifully portrayed with a naturalism that makes them feel like people you might know.

Sharply observant, A Kind of People is as much about marriage, friendship and community as it is about race, class and identity.

It is a really well-crafted drama that is thought-provoking, challenging, gripping and entertaining, it had the audience in raucous laughter one moment and gasping the next.

At only 95 minutes long (without an interval) it packs a lot of punch.

I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

You can see it at the Royal Court until 18 January.

You might also like to read:

Guardian interview with Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti.

Evening Standard theatre awards: My two favourite winners.

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