Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre, Cottesloe, London
Rich tapestry of poverty and poetry in post-war Trinidad
Monday 19 March 2012
Thirty years after it won a newspaper playwriting competition, Errol John's Trinidadian "street scene" was happily revived, twice, at Stratford East and the Almeida, in 1986 and 1988.
It's taken nearly another 30 years for the National Theatre to arrange an audience in the Cottesloe for Old Mack's busy scrubland of a backyard in Port of Spain, where neighbours live "like hogs," bickering and squabbling while the night air fills with snatches of blues, steel drums and calypso, not unlike Gershwin's skid row in Porgy and Bess.
Or, indeed, Lorraine Hansberry's Chicago Southside in A Raisin in the Sun. Michael Buffong's production doesn't quite nail that era, and the callow GI messing with Jenny Jules's imperious good-time girl Mavis resembles more a chorus boy from South Pacific than a sweaty war veteran.
The play, though, is as euphoniously poetic as its title suggests. Life is at breaking point, especially for Danny Sapani's heroically flawed Ephraim (a role the author himself once played), a bus driver with dreams of leaving.
He's enmeshed with the family across the yard, where Charlie (Jude Akuwudike, who played another role in the Almeida revival) has bungled a café robbery designed to help his daughter (Tahirah Sharif) through high school; and where Rosa (Jade Anouka), who works in the café, is assailed by its owner, played by a white-suited Burt Caesar with careful tread and sly deviousness.
A rich and satisfying domestic tapestry is overseen by the splendidly haggard and fulsomely resigned Martina Laird as Sophia, Charlie's wife, a role justly described by Kenneth Tynan – who organised the play competition – as "a black Anna Magnani".
This is the world of hardship and disappointment that drove Ephraim and his like to Britain to find roles in the mid-1970s immigrant comedies of Mustapha Matura. Cricket was the other route of escape; Charlie blew his Test Match chances by denouncing the colour bar on a tour to Jamaica.
Rosa's pregnancy results in a scene of shocking savagery that precipitates a powerful conclusion. And we are left with decidedly mixed feelings about Ephraim, who abandoned the grandmother who raised him in a poor house.
To 9 June (020 7452 3000)
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
- 4 Queen's first tweet: Reply telling Her Majesty to 'f*** off' broadcast on BBC News
- 5 #AskNigelFarage: Twitter starts hilarious Q&A for Ukip leader
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year