‘Random’ – Anything But…..
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Citing the award winning Colin Firth film, The King’s Speech as an example, a great movie director once commented that the best stories ever told were those that focussed on a tiny element of something far bigger.
debbie tucker green’s one hour play Random has just one actor, playing four key parts, starts at 8.45pm and, occupying a ‘temporary’ theatre at Leeds Playhouse, more than lives up to its name.
It first opened to critical acclaim at the Royal Court Theatre in 2008 and is as pertinent today as it ever was then, focussing on an Afro Caribbean family’s loss of a son to knife crime, still the blight of the nation in 2019.
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Kiza Deen as Sister is a great black actor and there was a real sense that she connected with the script as a woman with Afro Caribbean roots herself, slipping in and out of Patois with the ease of an individual who has ‘heard’ such vocal intonations all her life, and most probably had friends with similar if not identical backgrounds to the play’s characters.
At the centre of the script is a British family, named as Mother, Father, Brother and Sister, all of whom are voiced by Deen. Of West Indian heritage, the parents have lectured their children to never give reason for the police to come to the doorstep.
But, when they do, it is not to berate the family for having a ‘wayward son’ but to break the tragic news that he has been stabbed to death in a scuffle.
The brilliance of this script – not dissimilar in many ways to one of Alan Bennett’s – is descriptive to a fault, articulating every moment, sound and observation over the span of a few hours, from the moment our main protagonist wakes to the second, a few hours later, when officers break the tragic news. It is the story of a lifetime, a shattering human tragedy which happens in seconds but has far-reaching consequences.
At its heart Random explores grief and the way in which the Media articulates the subject of knife crime, not as a tragedy of one ‘voiceless’ family, but as a ‘story’ that will fill a gap in that day’s paper, a ‘page lead’, a ‘headline’ or good ‘filler’, all language I learned as a freelance eager to make a crust by selling that day’s line of hype or tragedy to eager tabloid news desks always keen to bolster circulation.
Gbolahan Obisesan’s direction keeps Kiza Deen moving so that her thoughtful dialogue is delivered to all quarters of the audience whilst Max Johns’ set design is thought-provoking to the point that it will make every individual think something different to the obvious.
The idea of leaving home at 7.45pm to attend a play starting at 8.45pm in the centre of Leeds, on a cold winter night, was not an appealing one, but I am so glad I made the effort.
Random is thought-provoking and keeps the spotlight burning brightly on a major social problem that continues to blight society more than a decade on from when the play first aired.
It is a one actor show, well-paced with plenty of heavy and light shading, funny, tragic and to be recommended, if only to remind middle class theatre goers that knife crime is not always something that happens in another district, but is a human tragedy waiting to happen with devastating consequences for anyone it touches.
At Leeds Playhouse
Until 16th February 2019
‘Random’ – Anything But….., 7th February 2019, 14:30 PM