Until The Flood
- Lorna Irvine
- 5 August 2019
Vital piece of drama interrogates the insidious nature of racism
Framed around the tragic real-life shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Missouri in 2014, writer and performer Dael Orlandersmith's script really resonates, particularly as President Trump's recent words on Twitter telling certain people to 'go back' – his riposte to four Democrat Congresswomen of colour who dared to challenge his majesty – still hang in the air. Such words of division and hate seem impossible to scrub off, and this production wants to interrogate the climate that can propel a man holding such opinions to the POTUS.
Oralndersmith embodies not just one, but seven characters, whose testimonies are genuine (recorded in the aftermath of Brown's shooting). All respond to his death in their own individual ways, whether compassionate, sorrowful, or merely scornful. Her monologues range from Dougray, a white supremacist, to idealistic young student Paul, to progressive black minister Edna.
Orlandersmith knows that words have weight, and her ear for the cadences of language is superb. She even emulates the 'swag' and 'flow' of Hussan, a teenage wannabe rapper, by lowering both her voice and shoulders, adding a dramatic physicality to the monologue format.
It's a masterful performance, with words of savagery spat out like bullets, and contrasting moments of tender understanding providing perspective. The play asks how a community can heal in the wake of tragedy.
By using a plethora of disparate voices, Orlandersmith suggests that human resilience and understanding lies in education and her poetic epilogue is a plea for looking at what binds, not separates, a community when hope seems lost.
In the midst of the candles and floral tributes on the floor is the graduation photograph of Michael Brown, smiling and anticipating a future which he was so unjustly denied. Until The Flood is a bold, moving and timely tribute.
Traverse, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), times vary, £21 (£15.50).