random @ Royal Court, London


Nadine Marshall

directed by
Sacha Wares
Random dont happen to everybody, so how come random have to happen to him? Debbie Tucker Greens latest play describes one day that changes a familys life forever. But, though ostensibly topical young, urban, black lives blighted by violence to think of this as issue theatre is reductive; this is play about a family hit by the sharp slap of loss.

Everything about Sacha Wares production speaks of simplicity. The performer, Nadine Marshall, stands on a bare, black stage, empty of props, and enacts all the roles herself, switching from brother to sister, mother to father, in a constant, shifting flow of voices.

The first half is a collage of the everyday, a typical morning. A brother and sister wake up, they bicker about mobile phones and the dubious odour emanating from his bedroom, they have breakfast. He goes off to school; she goes off to her office job and the collection of vapid colleagues who are slowly driving her nuts. And then she gets the message. Come home. The implications dont yet sink in; it is not until she has seen the police cars outside her house that she realises that something has happened. Something awful.

A random attack. Her brother dead. No more details are given, no back story, no build up. The audience are simply told that somehow he has ended up with his face slashed and a fatal stab wound in his back. The specifics are irrelevant as the family is pitched into a harsh new world of floral shrines and social workers, journalists looking for a story on gang violence and finding only tears.

Where Debbie Tucker Greens script really soars is in its searing details: the police officers who dont take their boots off inside the house; the father sitting blankly beside a bag of food that is slowly going off in the heat of kitchen; the sister trying to memorise her brothers scent, going through his things, breathing in the stink she had complained so bitterly about in the morning. There is music in her use of words, poetry milked out of everyday speech.

The play, at less than an hour, is a spare, pared down piece of writing, yet each image, each detail serves a purpose, shapes the story. Marshalls performance gives life to all these voices, sister, brother, mother, father, policemen and office colleagues, sliding from one character to another with a fluidity that means sometimes the switches arent clear, that sometimes one voice seeps into the next. But this approach fits the material perfectly, it allows the words to envelop and involve the audience. The play grabs you and shakes you and leaves you exhausted, drained.

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