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Friday, 29 January 2010

Theatre - A Raisin in the Sun - Royal Exchange

Star rating - 7/10

This play by Lorraine Hansberry set in the south side of Chicago in the 1950s was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. And it must have really put the cat amongst the pigeons when it first played, dealing as it does with issues of racism, segregation, and the place of their African heritage in the lives of fifth generation black Americans.

Lena is the matriarch of the family, whose husband has died leaving her with a financial legacy bigger than her wildest dreams. But it is not bigger than the dreams of her son Walter, who badly wants the freedom and dignity that he thinks the money will bring. Ray Fearon, last seen by me helping Kevin out in the garage, not very convincingly in Corrie, is surprisingly first class in his powerful portrayal of the angry and resentful Walter, whose plans go painfully awry. There is also great support from Jenny Jules as his wife Ruth, who just longs to get out of their cockroach infested rented apartment and have a home of their own. And also from Tracey Ifeachor, as his younger sister Beneatha, who is studying hard to be doctor against all expectations for a young black woman at the time.

The play is still capable of invoking a passionate reaction from the audience too, despite the fact that it feels a little overlong, with a little tighter writing and sharper production being needed in places. And it must be said that Starletta DuPois has great difficulty in remembering her lines as Lena, in a way I must say that I have never seen before to such an extent at the Royal Exchange. Whether it was lack of rehearsal, or review night nerves, it did detract from the overall strength of the piece, which is unfortunate to say the least.

As overall this play has a powerful message, and I will remember it for the anger, pain and ultimate dignity of Walter – Ray Fearon was truly wasted in Kevin’s garage, and he steals the show at the Royal Exchange.

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