Dark hu­mour in racism


An up­wardly mo­bile 1950s black fam­ily moves to a nice white sub­urb; 21st cen­tury white Amer­i­cans want a home in a black neigh­bour­hood un­der­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

The house is the same, but the fam­i­lies have dif­fer­ent skin colours and it’s a whole new era but how much have things changed? In nei­ther case are the new­com­ers made wel­come in Bruce Nor­ris’ Pulitzer-award-win­ning play, Cly­bourne Park.

The ac­tion is set in 1959 Chicago for the first act and in 2009 for the sec­ond.

Pe­tone ac­tress Nikki MacDon­nell said the racism is there.

‘‘I guess what Bruce Nor­ris is say­ing is ‘be­tween the 50s and now, have things changed in the way we re­lated to racism?’ I guess he kind of pricks the sub­con­scious.’’

In the first act, MacDon­nell plays Bev.

‘‘They’re mov­ing from their house,’’ she said. ‘‘She’s a nor­mal 50s house­wife, mov­ing af­ter a son had com­mit­ted sui­cide, barely cop­ing but got the mask on.’’

The fam­ily who want to move in are black. The in­evitable con­flicts are played with a lot of hu­mour, she said.

‘‘That’s what I find such a joy. It’s rare to come across such a fan­tas­ti­cally-writ­ten play which has this hu­mour but also has this depth to it. You usu­ally get one or the other, but not both.’’

Welling­ton ac­tress Nancy Brun­ning first plays the long-suf­fer­ing black maid Francine help­ing her em­ploy­ers pack up and move on, and then a stroppy black lawyer.

She rep­re­sents the now black neigh­bour­hood’s ef­forts to re­sist the white fam­ily who want to buy and de­mol­ish the house, try­ing to pre­serve the community as it was.

‘‘The sec­ond act is more about how PC-ness has gone over­board,’’ Brun­ning said.

Nor­ris’ char­ac­ters are com­plex, lay­ered and flawed, and he con­fronts them with un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tions, she said.

Ross Jolly di­rects Cly­bourne Park and it fea­tures An­drew Fos­ter, Danielle Ma­son, Gavin Rutherford, Jade Daniels And Paul Wag­gott. Strong lan­guage is used. It runs at Circa The­atre un­til Oc­to­ber 6. Call 801 7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.