Plays. Plays. Plays.
I thought I'd at least mentioned, in a previous post, one of the plays I'd recently watched. But it seems not. Recent theatre evenings include Amen Corner at The National, Marie-Ann Jean Baptiste's first UK appearance since Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies. It was an uplifting performance all round - from Marie-Ann as the Pastor of a run-down church, to the live band who I had not even realised were playing just behind the main set, to the gospel choir parts of the play. It is, ultimately, the argument between spirit and religious conformity. Originally written by James Baldwin.
I was also astonished by Blavatsky's Tower, which was performed at the lovely intimacy of Baron's Court Theatre in Kensington. Astonished isn't the word. I admit that most theatres I've ever been to have been the major players: Donmar, National, Old Vic, et al, but rarely had I been fringe or 'off-fringe'. Blavatsky's Tower had me riveted in the scarily cohesive performances of the Blavatsky family, holed up atop the Tower of the title, designed by Blavatsky Snr.
I then went to the Tricycle for the first time, which is a bit shocking when one considers that I lived in north London for more than a decade. I saw Bracken Moor, my first 'spooky' play. Joanne Woodward gave a standout performance. The play centred on the death of an only child, a son, at Bracken Moor.
This week I got to see Disgraced at the Bush Theatre. Disgraced won the Pulitzer for Drama last year in America. And it's not hard to see why. Writer Ayad Akhtar has written a concise, sharp, unflinching play about an American 'secular Muslim', who had changed his name to fit in. The naïveté of his white American wife, Emily (Kirsty Bushell) is tormenting, and his subsequent downfall is on her ideals, which she later admits were naive. It was so incredibly infuriating. So too the outraged responses of the liberal elite representations in the play, in the other form of a Jewish art dealer Isaac (Nigel Whitmey), when protagonist Amir admits to feeling just a little proud that Muslims were responsible for 9/11. Abe, a name that automatically brings up Abe Lincoln, is Amir's nephew, who has also changed his name and who later embraces his Muslim heritage to the point of being arrested by the FBI whilst drinking coffee in Starbucks. It's a truly astonishing play - and I related to different aspects of the feelings explored; of feeling one's repressed ancestry in one's bones. It's had brilliant write ups too. I'm sure it will have to move on from the Bush Theatre - as perfect as that theatre and its environs are - to the West End. As we all filed out of the theatre and onto the bustle of Uxbridge Road, no one could have failed to notice the sharp divisions between many passersby, young male Muslims in their traditional dress, and us - the white liberal cultural elite, despite my saying to myself, but I knew how Amir felt! I got it! It needs to be required watching, I feel.