The Royal Court Theatre presents
Clubland ( Archived )
By Roy Williams
15 June - 14 July 2001
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Director Indhu Rubasingham
(L TO R) Deobia Oparei, Natasha Gordon, Rhashan Stone, Marc Warren, Natasha Gordon
Production photography by Nobby Clark
Direction: Indhu Rubasingham Design: Simon Higlett Lighting: Mark Jonathan Sound: Paul Arditti
Cast: Cavan Clerkin, Natasha Gordon, Deobia Oparei, Rhashan Stone, Marc Warren
“It is the old story of arrested adolescents still working out the fears and hatreds of their schooldays while their contemporaries are marrying and moving on. The difference is that Williams elaborates this into racial drama of engrossing intricacy, centring on the courtship dance of a West Indian, an African and a white boy around a Caribbean girl.
“Indhu Rubasingham’s company put it over with such fire that you take their bravado and fantasies at face value, and only apprehend the characters’ real lives when, say, the hulking bodybuilding Ade (Deobia Oparei) divulges that he used to be bullied, or the menacingly rat-like Ben (Marc Warren) admits he got his job by marrying the boss’s horse-toothed daughter.
“Their language may be brutal, but not the delicate web Williams spins round them, drawing them together in a continually changing pattern of strength and weakness. All three boys are hopeless at sex, but each in his own way: Ade by attempting physical domination; his former tormentor Ken (Rhashan Stone) by turning up in his banker’s suit to advise the girl (Natasha Gordon) on pension plans; and poor Ben, by waging a vicarious campaign to find Ken a partner. After all the swaggering insults, humiliation, and dreaming, the piece ends with its first gesture of affection, which is so well earned and genuine, it makes you heart turn over.”
“Clubland, in Roy William’s new play, is where you hunt. You identify your targets, who are female, and your rivals, who are male. Kenny (Rhashan Stone), who is 29 black, has not been much of a hit with the girls, but hi best mate, Ben (Marc Warren), who is white and ostentatiously and viciously macho, likes watching him try. Ben likes to egg people on. Ade (Deobia Oparei) and Sandra (Natasha Gordon) are a young black couple in a stormy reltionship. Ade, who used to be beaten at school, likes violence, handcuffs and that; Sandra, who is nobody’s fool, does not make it easy for any man to love her. Vicious Ben is married to a girl he loathes; it turns out that he only married to spite Nat (Cavan Clerkin), his white friend, who it married and happy. Ben observes black life with a faint, unconscious homoerotic excitement, while the blacks have their own problems. Williams is saying that black women can be made difficult, belligerent, almost unfeeling, buy black men who are either brutal and selfish or weak, inept and star-struck by whites. This is a slice of life, a harsh, unforgiving play, but Williams neither gloats over his characters nor preaches to them. Indhu Rubasingham’s direction and the five performances are, like the writing, hard and cool: you feel they’ve all been there and got much more than the T-shirt.”
JERWOOD THEATRE UPSTAIRS