Remember ‘Clybourne Park’ – Bruce Norris’s uncomfortably hilarious West End hit about racial tension and class snobbery in Chicago? Well, Sarah Rutherford’s written the London equivalent. Westbourne Park, if you like.
The 2008 US election results are seeping in, and ex-lawyer Natasha’s invited a bevvy of yummy-mummies round to her posh London pad for Obamatinis.
With two Ethiopian adoptees of her own, Natasha (Susannah Doyle) is keen to bond with other mothers of mixed-race children at little Zere Tesfaye’s almost-all-Aryan school. Out come the South African Strelitzia flowers. Up goes the faux-indigenous art. It’s time for that great bourgeois dance: the holier-than-thou hotstep.
Four playground acquaintances trying to engineer friendships would be awkward enough – particularly since they treat motherhood as an Olympic sport – but Rutherford’s strewn the floor with eggshells and released a whopping great multicultural elephant into the room.
Natasha’s old friend, naïve blabbermouth Izzy (Olivia Poulet) bungles her terminology. Straight-talking Mo (Amy Robbins) steers civilities towards truth or dare territory, while heavily pregnant Angela (Jacqueline Boatswain) knows she’s only there because of her skin-tone. It takes a mere half-hour for the ‘lots of black friends’ line to land.
Yet Rutherford also recognises that such tiptoeing niceties are small-fry against the big picture; a point she makes, with a keen farceur’s eye, by raising the issues of white supremacists and institutional racism. Her gear-changes can be clunky and certain plot-points need a firm shove, but this is fiercely funny stuff.
It’s human too: each of the women has their own vulnerabilities and sore points, from infertility to infidelity, that gradually ruin proceedings.
Jez Bond’s production settles into a great rhythm and understands the thrill of a short, sharp shock, not least with its top-drawer wardrobe malfunction. Doyle makes a monstrous mean girl-turned-mum, but Robbins is properly stand-out as Mo, concealing a vicious streak brought out by alcohol and maternal instinct.
By Matt Trueman
Average User Rating
3 / 5
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The play delicately plays upon perceptions of race and the modern dynamics of a multi-ethnic society. Written by a mother of mixed race children, the play carefully explores the viewpoints of four very different women, challenging their opinions and those of the audience with an honest, intelligent and frank discussion of race in relation to raising children in Britain today. The characters feel real and recognisable, and there are moments of brilliant comedy interspersed, which keep the tone light and believable. This is an important topic rarely explored in theatre, and executed with clarity, humour and respect.
@ParkTheatre @ParkTheatre I found this play to be extremely offensive to the mixed raced and black society. Some scenes were just unbearable to watch and listen too. It's sad to know thatblack people are perceived in that way in 2013. Being mixed race myself I felt very uncomfortable in the crowd from some of statements that were obviously racist and insulting. Not all black people are like that.. I would of appreciated the play more if the ethnic actress played a better role of black woman. I suggest the director of this play does more research first before putting on a show like this. I saw a perception of black women that mostly was not true. They say words such as "monkey" "all have fake hair" ( so not true my hair is very long and real) "most work in school kitchens" (how rude I'm a doctor) I think they need to do more background research before a play of this kind.