Theatre Review: Death of A Black Man – Hampstead Theatre – 28th May – 10th July 2021
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this play when I first heard about it, but I was intrigued by the title and assumed it would be a typical tale of police brutality, highlighting racial injustice in the 1970’s – how wrong was I?
Written by Alfred Fagon, the playwright who now has an award named after him, for dramatists of African Carribbean decent.
This show is set in 1973 in Notting Hill, West London, we follow 18yr old Shakie living his best life in his swanky Notting Hill apartment whilst making a comfortable income selling African style furniture on the swanky Kings Road in Chelsea.
His perfect world is interrupted by the arrival of Jackie, his ex-girlfriend and baby mother to his young daughter. Why is she back? What does she want and can he trust her?
Have a look at the introduction to the show by director Dawn Walton…
This play is as old as me, first shown in 1975 – 46yrs ago it made it’s premiere at the Hampstead Theatre, but I’ve never even seen a play or show discussing the topics that it brought up.
Also, Alfred Fagon is a well known name in the industry, but noone has been staging his plays, so I feel so privileged to be able to see it – and what a play it is!
I am born from Caribbean parents who were teenagers in the 1970’s West London and life was about making quick money, partying and enjoying life, this I was aware of, but I had no idea about the class divide within the UK black community – this is prominently highlighted in this play.
Although, the issue of colourism is touched upon, I get a feeling that gender was also a big issue in the way that Jackie was being treated – but class, jealousy, greed and the lure of money were the main themes and issues driving the narrative of this play.
The 3 actors in the show are brilliant, and I fell in love with Jackie, played by Natalie Simpson, who I felt was misunderstood by the 2 younger guys who I feel saw her as a “rich spoilt princess” with Daddy’s credit card.
The relationship between Shakie and Stupmie is lovable, hilarious and believable and the script lends great dialogue to all 3 characters.
It’s amazing how much is portrayed from 1 set (a living room) without much need for many costume and set changes, the great script, direction and the acting really transport you to the various places mentioned, without the need to portray another setting – utterly brilliant!
If you want to be educated and entertained at the same time, I recommend seeing this play before it finishes – you’ll be glad you did!