Death of a Black Man

death-of-a-black-man

Hampstead Theatre (venue)

07 June 2021 (released)

41 min

This revival of Alfred Fagan’s 1975 play is set against a colourful backdrop of a flamboyant flat in Chelsea, London. The story focuses on 3 characters; Shakie (Nickcolia King-N’Da), an 18-year-old wheeler-dealer with big ambitions, Jackie (Natalie Simpson) the 30-year-old woman he fathered a daughter with at 15, and Stumpie (Toyin Omari-Kinch), his friend who is keen to set up a business importing African music to Britain.

What starts out as a vibrant, humorous play with everyone sipping champagne and taking seemingly playful jibes at each other, spirals into a dark, sinister story with the two men becoming obsessed with getting rich fast, arriving at an ultimate decision to kidnap and sell Jackie for a healthy sum. The play spirals hard and fast, perhaps too fast to be taken seriously with the shifting storyline feeling clunky at times and sudden bursts of aggression and confrontation coming across as over-the-top and out of context. That said, the drama does emphasise the desperation of black men in London, and of the vulnerable position of black women in society.

The acting is energetic and engaging, the two men switch impressively between different accents to highlight their uncertain position in post-60’s London. They play out their misogynistic roles with force and stamina offering loud, compelling and uncomfortable exchanges that become increasingly erratic as they drink and smoke the days away. Jackie’s role, however, becomes increasingly side-lined, her reason for visiting Shakie never becomes clear and she mainly acts as trigger for accelerating the men’s rage and ambition.

Whilst the play tries to fit a lot into a short space and moves at a bumpy pace, it’s a passionate, vibrant portrayal that highlights uncomfortable issues with force and intensity.

Related Articles

Responses

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X