Monday, March 7, 2011

How to spend £40 on casual racism

I’ve got mixed feelings about Dominic Cooke.

For every middle-class dysfunctional family drama he stages at the Royal Court (That Face, Tribes, The Heretic) he pulls something out the bag that’s just so goddamn fucking GOOD you wonder why you balked at the £40 ticket price for the West End transfer.

Yes. FORTY POUNDS. Which is equivalent to approximately 3.5 days rent or a Ryanair return flight to Barcelona, and for some strange reason you’ve spent it on a seat so far above the stage you get vertigo every time you look anywhere except the ceiling. Please note that ‘restricted view’ is usually code for ‘behind the fire door’.


Every so often the Royal Court comes up with a play so good it makes you want to rush out in the interval with a cattle prod to round up everyone on the street and drive them inside for the second half.

I wasn’t sold on Enron. My mum fell asleep but then again she won’t read anything unless it comes in a plastic library jacket and has a gruesome murder in the first three pages. But I liked the lightsabres and the raptors and all the other things I wasn’t expecting from a play set in the bank, and I would be more than happy if Boris installed them in NatWest to get rid of the lunchtime queues.

I loved loved LOVED Jerusalem. I loved it the way I love Sky Atlantic, Christmas trips to TGI Fridays, and all versions of Hush. Yesterday Deep Purple, today Kula Shaker. In fact why don’t we take a moment to look at a picture of Crispian Mills.

Watching Jerusalem is like eating your way through a Kellogg’s variety pack until you get to the Frosties (great) only to find there’s something else in the Frosties box (even better) HEY IT’S A CHEQUE FOR A MILLION POUNDS AND A LOVE LETTER FROM JAMES FRANCO!!!!!

Lets take another moment to look at a picture of James Franco.

Seriously. It's that good.

And as from Saturday I’m adding… erm.. racist comedy Clybourne Park to my list. It’s the latest **MASSIVE SMASH HIT!!!** to transfer from the Royal Court to the West End, and comes without a public school anorexic or prescription painkiller in sight.

The first act is set in 1950s America where perfect housewife Bev packs boxes around a grumpy husband who won’t change out of his pyjamas. It’s a farce about casual racism and uneducated Middle America which starts with nobody knowing the capital of Mongolia and does a U-turn into nastier territory when neighbour Karl turns up with the bombshell that the house’s new owners are black. Or coloured. Or Negros. Who cares? Not Karl - he’s just worried they’ll lower the tone of the area.

The second act skips ahead a couple of decades. Clybourne Park is now an all-black neighbourhood, and the granddaughter of Bev’s maid isn’t too pleased about a young white couple moving back in. An innocent meeting about planning permission turns into a minefield of escalating political incorrectness which manages to offend black people, white people, deaf people, women and at least six other social groups in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Eastenders.

A lesser playwright might have thought this concept enough, but writer Bruce Norris is two steps ahead and weaves in a story about the grieving family of a young Korean War veteran whose suicide is inextricably linked to the fate of the house. OH NO HE DIDN’T! Oh yes he did.

Is it funny? Very.

Is it offensive? Definitely.

Is it a masterclass in structure that makes me want to give up writing because I will never EVER be as clever as Bruce Norris? YES!!! Watch it and weep.

If your idea of an enjoyable evening is watching an entire theatre squirm in unison as a black mother asks her pregnant white counterpart what the difference is between a white woman and a tampon (answer: they’re both stuck up c*nts) then I thoroughly recommend you spend those 3.5 days of rent on a ticket.

Shall we have one last look at James Franco? Go on then.

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