Pros: Excellent performances from all concerned.
Cons: The fragmented style of the dialogue.
Ominous music pervades the auditorium as you enter, and the stage is filled by an opaque screen which resembles a giant TV. Shadowy figures walk up to the screen and look out at the audience before disappearing into the murky background.
The piece is just over two hours, without interval, consisting of three distinct parts.
Part one is a series of vignettes where most of the 16 strong cast are on the stage. The Movement Director, Vicki Manderson, deserves early mention for the smooth and effective choreography of so many people on a smallish stage. We witness conversations between acquaintances, friends, family members, describing treatment they have been subjected to, discussions on how to react and behave, and what future action should be taken to ensure change. There are recurring themes with similar accounts from both sides of the Atlantic highlighting the generational divides.
When parents are trying to advise young black men how to act and react during interactions with (I have assumed) police officers, the confusion and frustration is palpable. There is a detailed description of the effects of tear gas used on a peaceful demonstration which transports you to the scene, and the account of someone trying to overcome a deep and overwhelming lack of dignity following a strip search could probably form part of the training for those who have to carry out such searches.
Part two is heralded by extremely loud music. This time we see only two people on stage: a white middle-aged man who purports to be some kind of behavioural ‘expert’ and a young black woman – a student, possibly? We are not told. They are discussing the reasons behind the behaviour of perpetrators of a mass shooting, highlighting racial bias in the ‘expert’s’ assessment. The ‘expert’ is a thoroughly unlikeable self-opinionated condescending racist misogynist, probably great fun to play but borderline caricature. The continual movement of the two characters on a rotating platform enhanced the ‘cat and mouse’ nature of their interaction. This section did seem to drag on a bit, with one audience member nearby appearing to doze off for about ten minutes.
Part three consists of a recording of white actors and non actors, aged between about 11 to mid 70s, reading extracts from USA segregation laws. The dates of these laws ranged from 1850 to as late as the mid 1950s. The UK doesn’t escape: there follows a selection of British regulations from Jamaica outlining various punishments for slaves who do not conform to the code of behaviours laid down for them. A sobering reminder of the past delivered in a way which seemed to place blame on current and future generations.
An epilogue revisits a young man asking for a reason why he shouldn’t take action to instigate change, we are not told what that action may be. He does not receive an answer.
I had very high expectations for this, and have to admit to being disappointed. Part two became tedious following the punchy and fast moving beginning. The delivery was not as smooth as I’ve seen previously, many of the gaps between different characters speaking were just a little bit too long, making the whole thing disjointed and unnatural instead of reflecting the ebb and flow of an argument. The unfinished…yes… got a bit… and… after a while. Nevertheless, with excellent performances from every single cast member, great set and movement, important relevant subject matter, this is well recommended.
Author & Director: debbie tucker green
Producer: Royal Court Theatre in association with Barbara Broccoli
Movement Director: Vicki Manderson
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking Link: https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/ear-for-eye/
Booking Until: 24th November 2018