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Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy
Four Stars

It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.

Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t too keen on. 

As Norris’ deceptively Arthur Milleresque set-up gives way to an increasingly charged critique of ever-changing values, the civilised walls of Ken Harrison’s suburban set are similarly reconstructed in Michael Emans’ tight-knit revival. Seen today, the play has an air of prophecy, however polite the discourse now appears in light of the recent normalising of what was once unacceptable language.

Emans’ cast of eight square up to each other with increasing fervour as they shout each other down. The doubling up across the decades is particularly telling, with Lord’s latter-day buyer Steve sporting a cap just waiting to be branded with a Make America Great Again logo.          

One of the things Norris highlights is how real estate is embedded in capitalist philosophy, with the ebbs and flows of the marketplace fostering a boom-and-bust style of gentrification. In the end, however, it’s the house’s oldest ghosts that talk the loudest in a devastating exposure of the fragile foundations of tolerance and the illusion of liberty that goes with it.

The Herald, September 30th 2019

ends




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