Random, Royal Court, London

Paul Taylor
Wednesday 12 March 2008 01:00 GMT

Debbie Tucker Green has a poet's feel for rhythm, a keen ear for urban patois, and the knack of telling a story elliptically, with vivid flecks of detail. All these talents are to the fore in her new 50-minute piece, Random.

Premiered in a starkly unadorned and involving production by Sacha Wares, the piece is superbly performed by Nadine Marshall. Standing alone on the stripped-back main stage, this slight, engaging figure performs all the parts in a show about an ordinary black family who are devastated by sudden, unforeseen disaster.

We've grown used to news reports about the killing of black teenagers who blundered innocently into other people's conflicts. Tucker Green's play fleshes out the circumstances of one story, forcing us to see the terrible cost of such attacks. Punctuated by precise, ominous time-checks, the piece is structured as an account of a normal day derailed by tragedy.

The family's routines are registered humorously; the day begins with "Birds bitchin' their birdsong outside" and with the sister (the play's central consciousness) outstaring the alarm clock "till it blinked first – loser". Marshall switches seamlessly between deft evocations of the young buck of a brother, the put-upon, tolerantly amused mother, and the solid father not inclined to waste words. The sister's office work is going through its standard paces when she picks up a phone message from her mother: "Come home. Now."

Tucker Green is adept at wittily playing on and puncturing cultural stereotypes, and it was great both to see a first-night audience at the Royal Court largely comprised of young black people and to hear the delighted laughter of recognition.

She's also skilled at bringing you up against your prejudices. On hearing that two police cars were parked outside the family home, I automatically assumed that the brother had got into trouble. As the story reels into tragedy, Tucker Green finds just the right telling features – the weirdness, say, of being offered tea in their own home by white policemen – to convey the sense of lives turned upside-down. Having mocked her brother for the male stink in his bedroom, the sister now tries to conserve it as the most heartbreaking of mementoes. I like the way that, even as she grieves, this character remains true to herself, sceptical of displays of emotion at a makeshift shrine by folk who hadn't known the boy and bitterly scornful of the insensitive media brigade and the cowardly, unforthcoming witnesses.

To 12 April (020-7565 5000)

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