REVIEW OF BHATTI’S PLAY AT ROYAL COURT
All white people must be racists(?). All blacks must be victims of racism (?).
These are two of the questionsor, if you will, issues raised by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti in A Kind ofPeople now playing at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It is a powerfulplay with sone outstanding acting that that is riveting in every respect.
Bhatti starts her play with ahappy gathering to celebrate the birthday of a friend. It is a racially mixedcrowd. The hosts are a happily married couple, Nicky (white) and her husbandGary (black).
The guests are Mo (Pakistani) andhis wife Anjum, also Pakistani who wears a hijab more as a sword than anexpression of devotion to her Muslim faith. Gary’s sister Karen cares more abouthaving a good time than any racial or social issues. Mark (white) is Gary’sco-worker and seems like a decent guy but you may wish to reserve judgment onhim
But there is a surprise guest,Victoria, Gary’s boss, drops in. and proceeds to get drunk. She makes someclearly racist gestures and leaves.
The people in the play have farmore than racial problems. There is the issue of upward social mobility. Garyand Nicky live in subsidized (council) housing and are dreaming of him gettinga promotion to be able to buy a house. They are struggling to get theirchildren in better schools as a steppingstone to a better life.
The clash comes when Gary doesnot get the promotion and is convinced that he was rejected because ofVictoria’s racism. His relationship with Nicky falters and his whole worldcollapses.
The deterioration of Nicky andGary’s world culminates in an extraordinary emotional climax that leaves the audiencestunned. There is a brief epilogue and I will not disclose its content.
Claire-Louise Cordwell as Nickygives a performance of enormous depth and power. Her love for Gary and devotionto her children is immeasurable. When her father found out that she was in lovewith a black man he beat her up and broke two of her ribs. Cordwell displayNicky’s power to withstand anything in defence of her family and her dreams ofa better life. In the climactic scene she is simply heart-wrenching.
Richie Campbell as Gary is a manof pride and principal. He is unwilling to compromise those characteristics buthe does not realize that pride can become arrogance and failure to embracerealism over principal in the face of self-destruction makes no sense. We seeall of that brilliantly conveyed by Campbell in his bravura performance.
Gary’s boss Victoria, impeccablyplayed by Amy Morgan, displays the cool, fair-minded white person who can hideher racism under a veneer of good conduct. She is the most dangerous racist ofthem all.
Petra Letang is a pleasure towatch as Karen, the free-spirited sister of Gary.
The hijab wearing Anjum played byManjinder Virk shows another way of dealing with racists. She knows she can’twin so she says to hell with them. She fights them by sticking to her own kind,thumbing her knows at them and beating them wherever she can.
Gary’s friend Mark played well asa clown with a dark side by Thomas Coompbes is white and a supporter of hisbuddy. But watch out.
Anna Fleischie’s set of a kitchenand living room for Gary and Nicky’s apartment is easily changed to Victoria’soffice and a staff room and is suitable.
Kudos to director Michael Buffongfor expert handling of the cast and the pace of the production and providing uswith an extraordinary night at the theatre.
A Kind of Peopleby Gurpreet KaurBhatti continues until January 18, 2020 at the Royal Court Theatre, SloaneSquare, London SW1W 8AS. Box office: 020 7565 5000. www.royalcourttheatre.com/