Unwelcome visitors. Unwelcome news. A family wake up to a normal day. By lunchtime, one...… Read more
The Royal Court Theatre presents
random ( Archived )
By debbie tucker green
07 March - 12 April 2008
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Tickets: £15, £10. Mondays all seats £10
"Death never used to be for the young.
You get up.
You go bout your business.
You expect to come back."
An urgent new play by debbie tucker green.
Recent productions by debbie tucker green and Sacha Wares include generations (Young Vic) and trade (RSC/Soho).
It really opened my eyes and left me feeling very emotionally attached… I felt like I’d actually met the characters, like they were talking directly to me. I would recommend people of all ages to see it because it affects everyone.
— Student response to random
Extraordinary – you have to see it.
— BBC Radio 4
A performance that whisks the audience from laughter to comfortless sorrow in less than an hour.
— Daily Telegraph
Strikingly salty, vivid, poetic, funny, moving
— Mail on Sunday
Nadine Marshall is superb from start to finish
— Sunday Times
tucker green cements her reputation as one of our most important playwrights.
— London Paper 5 stars rv. A powerhouse of a production…electric…universally potent.
rn. The Stage
5 stars The London Paper, Ed Clarke
One-act tragedy is no random hit
Mindless teen murders have been a disturbingly regular feature in our news pages over the last year and Debbie Tucker Greens latest drama about a murdered black teen could hardly be more timely.
But while plays that deal with issues can easily be gratingly worthy or preachy, this positively poetic one-woman monologue avoids stereotypes and high drama and focuses on the minutiae of one familys daily life.
Stylishly directed, Nadine Marshall gives a faultless, often laugh-out-loud turn as she flits between family characters with clarity.
It is a humble world in which this numbing event happens, made all the more tragic by the observations of what is otherwise just another day. With this one-act play, Tucker Green cements her reputation as one of our most important playwrights.
4 stars Jane Edwardes, TimeOut
The fact that Debbie Tucker Green’s new one-woman play has attracted a huge crowd of black teenagers seems at first like the only reason why Sacha Wares’s production is being staged in the main theatre rather than upstairs. Nadine Marshall, a small figure standing alone on a bare stage, plays all the parts as she takes us through a family’s morning routine. For Sister, the ‘birds are bitchin their birdsong outside’ as she prepares to go to work; while her lazier Brother is still in bed listening to the ‘birds sweetin their birdsong outside. Nice.’ Their Mother worries about the fact that she has burnt the porridge. The Sister talks confidently of her boyfriend and then looks ruefully at the phone, waiting for him to ring. It’s an epic challenge for any performer but Marshall makes Tucker Green’s poetic diction her own as she adopts the Brother’s swagger – arguing the toss with his teacher over whether he’s ten or 20 minutes late for school – and then sinks into the slow Caribbean rhythms of the Mother preparing to go out shopping.
Although there are times when you feel that a smaller space would create a more concentrated atmosphere, this is a big play – however short at only 50 minutes – dealing with an urgent and topical theme. From the moment the Mother spies two policemen standing at the door, the day turns black. The immediate assumption is that the son has got into trouble. He has, but not of his own making. He’s been a victim of a random attack and the body has to be identified. On the night I went, three boys walked out at this point. If they felt they were being preached at, others were hanging on to every word. Tucker Green refuses to be sentimental it’s her honesty, empathy and attention to astonishing detail that give the piece its power, that and Marshall’s dynamic performance.
4 stars Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times
Unless you’re one of those people who writes angry letters to newspapers insisting we should all still speak like Herbert Asquith, you’ll relish the marvellous richness of patois in Random. Experts say English, the global language, is breaking down into dialects again, just as Latin once did into Portuguese, Romanian and all points in between. Here is the proof, and it is exhilarating.
The dialect in Random is Black British English, though Debbie Tucker Green has such a brilliant ear for speech patterns that even within this there are further divisions. In her unnamed London family, the round, fruity West Indian of the mother and father is flattening into their childrens morose, estuarial English – the blue hills of Jamaica levelling to Essex marshland. Yet in both there is such an infectious musicality, there was a real danger I would emerge to meet friends for dinner with Whagwaan, mi bredren?, like that hilarious white, public-school DJ Tim Westwood, whose father was Bish of the Peterborough massive. (I understand “wanksta” is the term for such a phoney.)
Single-handedly playing mother, father, brother, sister and more, Nadine Marshall is superb from start to finish. This is clearly a perfect partnership of writer and performer. You’re never in doubt which character she is as she switches from one to another, line by line. One moment she is Mum – slight stoop, concerned brow, sentences scattered with “raas” and “smoddy”; then Sister, all street-stroppy attitude (a’i’ chewed), with a belligerent back-tilt of the head and slashing hand movements; then Brother, with twisted smile, gangly limbs, sleepiness. Marshall can even momentarily be John, who speaks all of 10 words, yet that is enough to know he is a heart-of-gold white geezer. I could see his tough haircut and fake Lacoste shirt, and make a guess he was a Spurs supporter.
The comic dynamics between parents and children, spouses and siblings, are so enjoyable, it is almost a shame the play has to stray into an Issue: black-on-black violence. The danger is that this simply confirms outsiders prejudices. There is also the occasional electric shock of black-on-white racism: Sisters scorn for those she codes “blue-eyed”, or her father’s rule that no police are allowed in the house. Or white people.
The route map of grief is beautifully observed. Sister goes into her dead Brother’s bedroom and, though it still stinks of old socks and trainers, she keeps the door shut – she wants it to last as long as possible. There are his CDs, his pirate DVDs, his Halle Berry poster. The paltriness of these few possessions is moving: one previous owner, now unreachable…
Tucker Green’s tremendous gift for dialogue that is truthful, humane and richly comic suggests she needn’t hang her writing on an Issue. Simple character comedy has its own profundity. It doesnt have to be all street and bleak.
Powerful portrait of a London family Evelyn Curlet, The Stage
At first glance this may appear a mere slip of a play – a one-woman show running at just 50 minutes. But make no mistake, this is a powerhouse of a production. The electric combination of Debbie Tucker Green’s script with Nadine Marshall’s performance sees to it that this production never fails to capitalise on the profound impact that the best of live theatre can deliver.
Green’s script is masterly. Taut and sparing, it yet retains an attention to detail that conjures up the entirety of the play’s world – a day in the life of a black London family – from the households dynamics and decor to the local geography and rhythms of the day. Rhythm is a potent factor in the writing. Fluid and lyrical, Green is able to both capture the particular inflections of each character and forge a whole that maintains a coherent beat.
Essentially four interspersing monologues, the production would flounder without a skilled actress capable of making Sister, Brother, Mother, Father distinct characters. Here Nadine Marshall triumphs, capturing each personality in an instant as she flits between their day. She evokes the impatience of Sister, Brother’s laid-back posturing, Mother’s mild irritation and Father’s silent solidity with winning clarity.
With such a strongly drawn family, it is no surprise that the audience laughs along at the typical patterns of family life – the boisterous teenager, the harried young woman, their affectionate rebellions against protective parenting. It is a result of this empathy that the unexpected loss is felt so strongly.
In part a reflection on the recent spate of killings of young teenagers on the capitals streets, this tale of love and loss, seeming order and sudden chaos, is universally potent.