Clybourne Park, Park Theatre: America's racial fault lines erupt ****
- Credit: Mark Douet
Written two years after Barack Obama's election, Bruce Norris' Tony, Olivier and Pulitzer prizewinner suggests America's racial fault lines linger surface deep like a smouldering volcano.
A decade on, Black Lives Matter and George Floyd's death have thrown up more pressing issues for people of colour than middle-class white folk's concern over property prices and political correctness.
But how we speak to each other - and where we live - are the foundations of an equal integrated society, and Oliver Kaderbhai's sparky tautly-paced revival delivers two hum dinging rows on both subjects, which draw gasps of hilarity and horror.
Written as a sidebar to Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun, in which a black family are offered a bribe not to move into a white area, Norris' dark satire centres around a house in a Chicago suburb that is sold to a black family in 1959 - then purchased by an aspirational white couple 50 years later who want to raze and rebuild it. Both feature a pregnant wife and the loaded issue of where to raise children.
Grieving the loss of their soldier son, Bev (Imogen Stubbs) and Russ (Richard Lintern) have good reason to leave the community that now whispers behind their backs. Tightly-wound neighbour Karl gets wind of who they've sold to and the row that ensues drags in the couple's black maid Francine and husband Albert - with Karl hilariously citing skiing to argue that people who are different should stick to their tribes.
Five decades on, Clybourne Park is a predominantly black but gentrifying area, and the descendant of the first non whites to live there is on the residents' committee objecting to the denial and destruction of black history. Cue an exchange of racist jokes, jibes and howls about how white men are the newly oppressed.
Norris writes with nuance on white ignorance and attitudes, but ironically his black characters feel under explored. Lintern does moving work as a father unhinged by grief, while Stubbs' naive unthinking racism betrays a hint of steel, and Andrew Langtree is all too recognisable as hate figure Karl/Steve.