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'Hackle-raising' play starring blacked-up actors to showcase at Suffolk theatre festival

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

A play featuring black actors in “blackface” will be the centrepiece of this year’s HighTide theatre festival.

The new writing showcase in Suffolk, whose patrons include David Hare and Sam Mendes, will stage the UK premiere of the provocative play, Neighbors by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins in May.

The play, a savage comedy about ‘post-racial’ America, black identity and minstrel shows examines what happens when a family of black entertainers (performed by actors wearing exaggerated minstrel make-up) moves in next door to a suburban, mixed-race family. It is “a 300-year history of black people in the theatre”, according to the young New York playwright, who studied anthropology at Princeton.

The New York Times described the original production, which ran under the title ‘N(e)ig(h)g(bo)ers’ at the Public Theatre in 2010, as “incendiary”, “hackle-raising” and “pure sensation”. After HighTide, it will transfer to co-producers, the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton on 21 May.

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