Review Pass Over Kiln Theatre

PUBLISHED: 13:01 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:01 25 February 2020

Paapa Essiedu and Gershwyn Eustache Jr in Pass Over at Kiln

Paapa Essiedu and Gershwyn Eustache Jr in Pass Over at Kiln

Archant

Antoinette Nwandu cleverly customises Beckett’s Waiting For Godot to evoke the cruelly proscribed lives of African Americans.

Pass Over Kiln TheatrePass Over Kiln Theatre

Antoinette Nwandu cleverly customises Beckett's absurdist Waiting For Godot to evoke the cruelly proscribed lives of African Americans.

Moses and Kitch are down-and-outs, kicking the kerb at the wrong end of a nameless city street, dreaming of getting 'up and off this block'.

They take turns to sleep, spar, argue, fantasise about food and women, and reminisce about childhood Bible classes which held out hope of a Promised Land.

The book of Exodus, which saw Moses lead his people out of slavery, but also Black Lives Matter underpins the non-action.

It is set now, but several signifiers - a family name, a verbal slip-up, a way of cowering at authority, recall the slave era - indeed Nwandu sourced her character names from an old slave manifest.

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The duo's encounters with first a wholesome white-suited 'golly gosh' liberal, and a more straightforwardly racist cop betray the mutual fear and hostility of black-white relations that springs from centuries of inequality.

Moses and Kitch are victims, but don't want to be, rehearsing their limited options they realise that for them, The American Dream is a chimera.

It's an urgent powerful message but a depressing one that's sometimes hard to watch but Indhu Rubasingham's tautly-directed 80 minute production handles the tonal shifts from surrealism to naturalism.

Paapa Essiedu and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr are superlative in playing through the duo's bantering cameraderie, Kitch more conciliatory, pragmatic, Moses defiant and playful. Both vulnerable.

Alexander Eliot's earnest, shrugging Mister is a cypher, a stand in for the complicit, bland concern of white liberals to their unequal society.

He finds it hard to hear them use the N-word he whines, 'how come you can, but I can't?'.

Just as Trayvon Martin was shot by a community-spirited neighbourhood watcher, Nwandu suggests that Moses and Kitch have as much to fear from the do-gooder who comes bearing picnic treats, as the 'popos' with their batons and Glocks.


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