Clybourne Park, Royal Court, London
Monday 06 September 2010
The US dramatist Bruce Norris (The Pain and the Itch) delights in undermining liberal complacencies.
In his outrageously funny and squirm-inducing new play, he trains his satirical sights on the explosive subject of race and the taboos controlling how we talk about it. His Clybourne Park receives its English premiere in a superlatively performed production by Dominic Cooke.
Clybourne Park has a venerable theatrical ancestry. It's the all-white Chicago neighbourhood into which the hopeful black Younger family aspires to move in A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama about the difficulties of integration. In the first act of his play, Norris has had the productive and provocative notion of creating a back story for that classic. We're permitted to eavesdrop on the white couple who, having sold their house to the Youngers, are vainly pressurised by the white community to undo the deal. The second act fast-forwards to 2009 where the tables are seemingly turned.
In both periods, the disputants blunder across the conversational minefield of race with excruciatingly comic results. Martin Freeman pulls off a brilliant double. In the first half, he's the most racist of the characters – Karl Lindner, whose attempts to stop the sale are breathtakingly tactless. In the second, he's the oddly complementary Steve, the more-tolerant-than-thou white newcomer whose peeved efforts to bring the underlying racial antagonism out into the open expose him to the aggrieved charge of trying to tar the black representatives with racism and then trigger a disgracefully funny contest in which the unsmiling participants test one another's limits by telling escalatingly offensive jokes. It's an irony not lost on Steve that he picked up his gag from his one black acquaintance and it's no wonder that his pregnant wife (excellent Sarah Goldberg) is flustered into making the tellingly crass claim that "half my friends are black".
To 2 October (020 7565 5000)
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'