Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Clybourne Park - Review

In my 16 years on this planet, I have been lucky enough to see some truly fine theatre; from Jonathan Pryce in Pinter's masterpiece The Caretaker to Sir Derek Jacobi in Shakespeare's King Lear, and many more. But Clybourne Park, currently running at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End, is, without doubt, one of the best plays it has ever been my pleasure to watch.

That may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, and, I concede, not everyone will adore this piece quite as much as I do. But I am describing my personal response, which can be summed it thus - Clybourne Park is fan-flipping-tastic in every way.

I am in awe of the playwright, the Texas-born Mr Bruce Norris. The script is one of the quickest, sharpest and most powerful I've ever come across. Every line brims with acerbic excellence. The play is a response to Lorraine Hansberry's classic piece A Raisin in the Sun, which premiered in New York in 1959. Hansberry's play (which I have also seen) tells the tale of a black family living in Chicago who intend to move to a white neighbourhood, and the inevitable racial  friction this causes. It is an unsurpassed dramatisation of a society in the grip of racism, but I earnestly believe Clybourne Park is every bit as wonderful as the piece to which it nods.

The first act of Clybourne Park is set in 1959, and tells the tale of the white family who are selling their house to the black family from Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and the tension this causes among their neighbours. I shan't reveal all the plot to you, needless to say there's more to this family and this "community" than meets the eye. The second act is set in 2009, with the same actors adopting different roles. The play is beautifully structured, and one of the joys of watching it for the first time is seeing this and then being able to look at the piece as a whole. To truly understand and experience it, you must go and see it for yourself.

What I can say is this - I have never laughed in a theatre as much as I did watching this play. It is hilarious. The whole audience roars with laughter and cringes at the same time; some of the lines are just overwhelmingly stupendous and unbelievably offensive to the liberal sensibilities of the modern Western world. Sophie Thompson, who plays Bev and then Kathy (and is also the star of the show) comes out with some of the best one-liners I have ever heard. But believe you me, there is not one performance in Clybourne Park that is any weak or lacking. Every actor gives a stellar portrayal of their intricate and beautifully layered characters.

Clybourne Park is also incredibly poignant and powerful. In seconds, the audience switch from crying (yes, actually crying) with laughter to staring silently and intently at the stage, transfixed and moved by the wonder of it. Some of the scenes are breathtaking and the ending is magnificent.

I have truly exhausted the superlatives in this review, but I don't think I can stress enough just how outstanding this play is. Catch it while you still can, I implore you. It is a beautifully written, wonderfully acted, perfectly directed, masterly portrayal of a country, a society and a people gripped, if not defined, by the issue of race. If you go and see only one play this year, make sure it is Clybourne Park.

Star rating out of five for Clybourne Park:


Helen said...

My dear Sam,
If only I could snap my fingers, strap on wings, magically transport myself cross the waters. Your review is stellar ~ I so enjoyed reading it.
Helen @ Poetry Matters and
Living Boldly

Take care.......

Cheeseboy said...

This sounds like the perfect play. Especially the laughing part. How I wish I lived in London.

LovkynÄ› said...

your review makes this sound quite enticing. i would definitely go watch this if such a thing were possible. ^_^