Young Vic Theatre Winter 2019-2020Royal Court Theatre Spring 2019
Jackie Sibblies Drury's Pulitzer Prize play deals with a serious subject – perhaps the most serious subject in the American experience – with striking originality of both thought and theatrical presentation.
If it ultimately
disappoints it is because, having explored the issue in such fresh
ways, it settles for a glib and unoriginal conclusion.
built on a number of theatrical surprises and twists that make it
difficult to describe without saying too much. We meet what is
apparently an upscale African-American family preparing for a
Only gradually in the
opening scene might we catch a
sense of trying too hard, of working at manners and modes that are
not instinctive, of – dare I say it? - black people trying to act
Then, in a theatrical coup that I won't describe, our attention shifts to some white people imagining admiringly what it would be like to be black.
There are hints of John
Degrees Of Separation here, in the image of people working hard to
achieve something that probably isn't worth the achieving – or,
more ironically, of two groups each yearning for precisely what the
other is trying to escape.
But the play's real
insight is even more
complex and subtly ironic. The imitation white-middle-class black
family is following a model that doesn't actually exist, but is their
imaginary image of white America, just as the whites are drawn to a
soulful hip-hop blackness that is entirely their invention.
the races interact, asks the play, if they persist in imposing
imaginary identities on each other that make them unable to see the
So much so good, and I
have to repeat that I have left out
some of the ideas and staging effects that contribute to the play's
Sibblies Drury, director Nadia Latif and a
wholly admirable cast guide us through both the disorientations and
the reorganisations of our thinking so we experience the real
excitement of learning something and looking at it in fresh ways.
then – and again here I have to be vague – the playwright pulls
out another twist on our perceptions, but one that doesn't quite
In effect we are brought
all this way, through all this
enlightenment, to be told it won't do us any good and we shouldn't
bother trying to do anything with it. It's an ending that's too
self-congratulatorily clever, too glib, and too dark and dismissive
to be satisfying.
It is not just that the
ending is downbeat – a
playwright has every right to say there is no hope – but that it is
so much less original, perception-altering and involving than the
rest of the play.
And so you may walk away from Fairview with as much disappointment at an opportunity missed as excitement at what went on before.
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Review - Fairview - Young Vic Theatre 2019