It’s no accident; random is a great production. The one-woman show about an Afro-Carribean family that is destroyed by random violence is moving and beautifully scripted. Lucinda Davis is one of the most versatile actresses in the city. Director Micheline Chevrier masterfully keeps the focus on storytelling. And, of course, Imago Theatre and the Black Theatre workshop showcase works that probe contemporary issues with timeless application. My expectations for an outstanding show were met.
I’ll start with Lucinda Davis as the show rests entirely on her ability to convincingly portray four family members of a Afro-Carribean immigrant family in the UK. Davis metamorphoses into each with agility, her face taking new expressions, her body shifting posture, her accent Anglicizing as she plays Junior, Sis, Mom, and Dad. Each character comes to life, not just physically but psychically as well. Sis is grumpy, bored at work and annoyed with her colleagues. Junior is a chillaxed high school student with girls and music on his mind. Still carrying their island roots, Mom is burning porridge, while man-of-few-words Dad slowly wakes after the nightshift. Their disparate days continue as per usual until two policecars arrive at home. They stomp with their outside boots on the inside spotless carpet, bringing bad news about a random act of violence. This information transforms the characters before our eyes.
Davis has great material to work with. I’ll say it here, and I’ll say it again. A play can only be as good as its script is weak. And… drumroll, please… debbie tucker green’s script doesn’t have a flabby moment. The words are music, a flow of slang and imagery that evokes the up-by-their-bootstraps immigrant world. There is a warm humour. Junior gets into a dispute with his teacher about being 10 or 20 minutes late to school. “She says I got potential. I know I got potential,” he says. The pace is breakneck so that the fugue-like repetition of memory from each character – waking up to bird song, the burnt porridge, the arrival of the police – allows for details of the day to take shape. If anything, the pace might be a little too quick, as key points seem to pass by like winged arrows.
Director Chevrier has done a fine job putting the focus where it should be. The set is sparse, a chair and alarm clocks with different times glaring, a symbol of time’s passage (and a visual foil for the minute by minute recollection of the morning). Urban sounds compliment the action, but these are kept to an inoffensive minimum. The focus stays on Davis and on the story. Davis sits through most of the show, a choice which initially seems limiting. Nonetheless, as the play progresses, this serves to heighten the drama and create contrast.
The play’s subject matter is familiar, but relevant. Black Theatre Workshop and Imago Theatre tend towards the socio-political. Both have produced works about violence (police violence, violence against women) in recent years. Violence and its relationship to young black men continues to be in the headlines. But there are other tangential points made that are no less pertinent. For example, Sis talks about how the news doesn’t show the interview of the boy in the hoodie whose eyes are full of tears. Without making a direct accusation, this is a valid assessment of how the news plays a role in perpetuating certain kinds of images of visible minorities. British stereotypes about certain visible minority groups are something that a UK audience would be more sensitive too, especially in the wake of the recent London riots.
Overall the success of random is built on a series of good decisions. A lyrical script that runs from sharp comedy to emotional probing is complimented by excellent actors and an appropriately minimalist touch for set and sound. Though the theme of the play is familiar, its voice and its reach are profound.
Random runs until April 4 at the mai (3680 rue Jeanne-Mance). Click HERE for showtimes and tickets.