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)
Grace Dent on TVtv
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens