REVIEW: Race – it’s not a black and white case

Reading Rep and 2 Heavy Productions have teamed up in a challenging production. Race is a play about a controversial subject, as author David Mamet states: “The central theme of the production is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject”.

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Set in the United States, the play tackles, as one character states: “the most incendiary topic this century”.

The stage is set as the lawyer’s office and as the story unfolds we find out that Charles Strickland (played by Ian Mairs), is a rich, white man who has been accused of raping a young black woman. He is there to ask the law firm to defend him.

There are two lawyers in this firm: a black man, Henry Brown (Chris Tummings) and a white man, Jack Lawson (Jonathan Hansler). The other person in the firm is an honours student acting as a legal assistant, Susan, a black woman (Tayo Elesin).

As the four characters discuss how to defend the trial and overcome the prejudice they think the jury will have, the dynamics of rape, race, lies, class, sexism and prejudice play out on stage.

Ideas of Strickland’s guilt or innocence swing back and forth throughout the play as evidence is unfolded and dissected.

Race contains strong racial language and hard-core swearing which some people may find offensive.

I would defend the writer’s use of these words in this context. It’s shocking to hear people use offensive and graphic language. The power of these words lies in how uncomfortable they make you feel and that is the point.

Congratulations to 2 Heavy Productions and Reading Rep. The play doesn’t give us any easy answers but it does bring these issues into the light where we can inspect them.

Race is performed at Reading Rep’s base in Reading College until Saturday, April 18. 

For details or tickets, log on to its website, or call 0118 375 0280.

 

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