There are some names that can bring to mind a moment in history, a moment that had the power to send shockwaves into the years following it. Such a name is Michael Brown, an African American shot dead by a white policeman in Ferguson in August 2014. It was an incident that lead to countless protests and questions over police tactics and institutional racism. And it is this incident that defines Until The Flood.
Dael Orlandersmith, writer and performer, created Until The Flood from interviews with people connected in different ways to Ferguson, from local residents, police, even people who worked locally. From these she created eight characters, each with their own opinions on the shooting, the effects it had on Ferguson, and the whole issue of race within their country. Each character is given their own time to speak; she avoids the switching between characters, rather she allows each their own scene to talk in solitude about Ferguson, Michael Brown, the effects of racism on their lives. Nothing feels rushed as Orlandersmith slowly morphs from one to the next. The simple act of donning a shawl or picking up a mop the only props needed to suddenly become the old lady or the barber or any of her eight selected characters.
The play also allows the audience space for thought, it doesn’t tell you what is right or wrong, instead it tries to give a balanced view of what is a very complex situation. And in taking that approach it allows the show to gently wash over you until you are taking in by Orlandersmith’s personas and the questions they raise. Maybe most striking is her portrayal of Edna Lewis, a black preacher who tells us everyone is equal in God’s eyes and goes on to demonstrate that prejudices can exist in many forms, with her own mother disowning her because she started a relationship with another woman.
Until The Flood is an emotional exploration of a complex subject, one that sixty minutes of various viewpoints can do little more than scratch the surface. But it’s a fascinating sixty minutes and one that leaves you shaking your head at the sadness of it all, whatever the rights or wrongs may have been.
Written by: Dael Orlandersmith
Directed by: Neel Keller
Produced by: Arcola Theatre
Booking link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/until-the-flood
Playing until: 26 August 2019, followed by a transfer to Arcola Theatre, London.