Review: The Convert, Young Vic

Danai Gurira’s The Convert is a Christmas treat of a different order at the Young Vic Theatre

“Gracious to goodness”

There’s all sorts of lovely connections here. Danai Gurira’s play The Convert was first seen in the UK at the Gate last year, a theatre where her earlier drama Eclipsed was produced in 2015. That play starred Letitia Wright in an astonishing performance and Wright now appears in this new version of The Convert at the Young Vic – Wright and Gurira having starred in some little arthouse film called Black Panther in the meantime…

It’s a cracking good play too, worth the attention of this second production. Set in 1896 Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe), it looks at the ways in which colonial rulers sought to erase African cultural identities through any means they saw fit. Culturally, religiously, linguistically, their tools of ‘progress’ were wielded with considerable force and Gurira counts up the cost with a slow-building dramatic flair. Continue reading “Review: The Convert, Young Vic”

Review: The Convert, Gate

“There’s no place for a highly educated African woman here”

Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed was the best thing I saw in 2015 so the prospect of seeing her 2012 play The Convert, also at the Gate Theatre, was a joyous one indeed. And once again, Gurira turns her focus to the African continent, exploring the kind of history that I’m pretty sure is rarely featured in the majority of Western schoolrooms. The year is 1896 and the place is Rhodesia, the country now known as Zimbabwe, and The Convert takes a look at colonialism there from the inside out.

Chilford may be a native of this territory but taken from his family as a young boy, he has been moulded into an approximation of ‘an English gentleman’, the only black Roman Catholic priest in the area and tasked with the job of converting the population to the ways of their colonial masters. On the run from an attempt at forced marriage, Jekesai finds sanctuary under Chilford’s tutelage, renamed as Ester and quickly becoming his star pupil but as she comes to understand just how much she’s expected to give up, she’s left to question if there’s any safe haven at all. Continue reading “Review: The Convert, Gate”

20 shows to look forward to in 2017

2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Bolton Octagon

After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2017”

Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Lindsey Ferrentino, Ugly Lies the Bone
Lauren Gunderson, I and You
Martyna Majok, Ironbound
Marco Ramirez, The Royale
Anna Ziegler, Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong, A View From the Bridge
Ben Whishaw, The Crucible Continue reading “Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Nominations for 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
The Christians Produced by Playwrights Horizons and Center Theatre Group. Written by Lucas Hnath
Eclipsed Produced by The Public Theater. Written by Danai Gurira
Gloria Produced by Vineyard Theatre. Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Guards at the Taj Produced by Atlantic Theater Company. Written by Rajiv Joseph
John Produced by Signature Theatre. Written by Annie Baker

Outstanding Musical
FUTURITY Produced by Soho Rep. and Ars Nova in association with Carole Shorenstein Hays. Music by César Alvarez with The Lisps, Lyrics and Book by César Alvarez
Iowa Produced by Playwrights Horizons. Written by Jenny Schwartz, Music by Todd Almond, Lyrics by Todd Almond and Jenny Schwartz
Southern Comfort Produced by The Public Theater. Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins, Music by Julianne Wick Davis, Based on the Film by Kate Davis, Conceived for the Stage by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso
Tappin’ Thru Life Produced by Leonard Soloway, Bud Martin, Riki Kane Larimer, Jeff Wolk, Phyllis and Buddy Aerenson, Darren P. DeVerna/Jeremiah J. Harris and the Shubert Organization. Written by Maurice Hines
The Wildness: Sky-Pony’s Rock Fairy Tale. Produced by Ars Nova in collaboration with The Play Company. Text by Kyle Jarrow & Lauren Worsham, Songs by Kyle Jarrow Continue reading “Nominations for 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Review: Eclipsed, Gate

“You tink it normal you wifing some dirty self-proclaimed general in de bush? You tink it normal a boy carrying a gun killing and raping? You tink it okay dere no more schools, no more NOTIN!”

In 2003, Liberia was in the fourth year of its second civil war, the first having only ended in 1997 with cumulative casualties estimated to have reached over half a million. It is the context of this situation that Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed visits four young women sequestered on a rebel army base as the wives of the resident C.O. and explores the choices that they’ve been forced to make in order to survive. The intimacy of the Gate naturally lends itself to intense theatrical experiences but Caroline Byrne’s production here captures something equal parts raw and refreshing in both its uncompromisingly Liberian-accented subject and its forthright sincerity.

It’s refreshing because the Zimbabwean-American Gurira’s writing stems from an innate desire to understand character and even though the four women have been reduced to naming each other in the order they were ‘betrothed’ to the unseen general, they’re all written beautifully. As the dominant mother figure, No 1 runs as tightly regimented a ship as the man who no longer sexually desires her, No 2 took the only escape route available, joining the ranks of the soldiers leaving No 3 to bear the brunt of the amorous intentions, leaving her pregnant. The arrival of a frightened No 4 forces a change in the group’s dynamics though, as each woman struggles to assert their position.  Continue reading “Review: Eclipsed, Gate”