Gem of the Ocean, Tricycle Theatre, London
This gem's in need of a little polish
Sunday 15 January 2006
Set in Pittsburgh in 1904, Wilson argues that the end of slavery has not heralded a new dawn in rights for black Americans. Workers are forced to pay more in board than they receive in wages; families prevented from leaving towns. Racism is omnipresent. "What good is freedom," asks Joseph Marcell's Solly, "if you can't do nothing with it?"
The desperation of men and women who fought the civil war to end slavery and dreamt of a life of freedom results in riots and a fire at the town's main source of work, the local mill.
Citizen Barlow, a young man wracked by guilt for causing another man's death, visits Aunt Esther (fast approaching her 300th birthday) to get his "soul washed". She takes him on a spiritual journey to the "city of bones", a pilgrimage that is supposed to show Citizen the horrors of slavery and the wonder of the opportunities his generation now have.
Paulette Randall's overlong and, at times, slow-paced, production is saved by powerful performances from Joseph Marcell and Patrick Robinson's town sheriff, Caesar.
Robinson shines as the black sheriff spitting with disgust at the behaviour of the town's "niggers" who he claims refuse to obey the law. His cries of "I'm just doing my job" become increasingly desperate as even his own sister turns against him.
While the issues raised could start a thousand discussions and arguments, the production lacks spark. Too few characters develop while too little is made of those who do.
To 11 February, 020 7328 1000
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
- 2 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public can visit police’s grisly crime museum
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Vagina canoe artist facing two years in jail defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
- 5 The Queen’s speech 2014: Recap and Twitter reaction to Game of Thrones reference
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
EastEnders Christmas Day special, TV review: It's all about the Carters this Christmas - and Danny Dyer is brilliant
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Doctor Who: Jenna Coleman to stay on as Peter Capaldi’s assistant Clara Oswald in next series
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader