The Theatreguide.London Review
Turner's Come and Gone
Wilson is the African-American playwright who set himself the challenge
of writing ten plays, each set in a different decade, to trace the
African-American experience of the Twentieth Century, and actually
finished the project shortly before his death in 2005.
Turner, set in
1911, is not the best play of the sequence - I'd rank Fences, Jitney
and The Piano Lesson at the top - but it has strong moments and is
certainly a necessity for anyone hoping to experience the whole cycle.
residents of a Pittsburgh boarding house warily welcome a newcomer, who
is gradually discovered to be an ex-convict in search of his wife. His
story provides the forward movement and plot, but it is actually the
weakest part of the play, because we see relatively little of him and
because too much of his adventure depends on a mystical internal
experience difficult to convey in performance.
occasional dramatic lapses - it shows up on Gem Of The Ocean and The
Piano Lesson as well - was a tendency to rely on magical moments he
could explain fully in a stage direction but virtually defy actors and
directors to convey in performance. Here, for example, is the stage
direction for the climactic moment in this play:
found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected,
cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the
workings of his own heart and the bonds of the flesh, having accepted
the responsibility for his own presence in the world, he is free to
soar above the environs that weighed and pushed his spirit into
You figure out how to play that.
it is not too
surprising that the background action, the day-to-day living in the
boarding house, is more fully realised and communicated in this
production, and that you are likely to find the supposedly secondary
characters more real and more interesting than the protagonist.
grumbles good-naturedly about his tenants, putters in his workshop and
acknowledges without too much surprise or rancour the racism behind his
inability to get a bank loan. His wife cooks delicious meals and offers
wise counsel, an older resident dabbles in mysticism and voodoo, a
younger one flirts (with remarkable success) with every woman who
passes, and a general sense emerges of how life in this warm community
transcends poverty or racism.
production, in the round, captures this reality, making the milieu,
more than the visitor's adventure, the dominant impression the play
little stage time, the role of the searching man really needs an actor
able to establish a presence and weight, so that his shadow hangs over
the scenes he's not in, but Kobna Holdbrook-Smith too often seems
little more than an extra passing through someone else's play just to
make up the numbers.
Danny Sapani as the landlord, Adjoa Andoh as his wife, Delroy Lindo as the older man and Nathaniel Martello-White as the unlikely Romeo carry the acting honours.
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- Joe Turner's Come and Gone - Young Vic 2010