Race by David Mamet (4 stars)

This article is from 2014


Mamet makes everyone uncomfortable at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Although the South African theatre at the Fringe in recent years has been acclaimed for its ability to give familiar Western plays an African twist, Race does not escape its American preoccupations with the conflict between black and white. Set in a law firm with one black and one white partner – and a black female assistant – it ranges across different perspectives on the relationship between the races in the USA, before concluding on a pessimistic note.

David Mamet's scripts are known for their rapid wordplay and interest in difficult scenarios. Revolving around the firm's decision to defend a white man accused of raping a black woman, it repeats its unhappy message. An excellent cast and firm direction bring out the best in Mamet's language, making each scene a coherent and forensic analysis of how the various characters understand the accusation. And while racial conflict is common across the world, Mamet's meditation is on the particulars of the USA's problems. The lawyers seem to be rehearsing for their day in court, the defendant is awkward and feels guilt and the assistant may be more than she seems.

Any overlaid interpretation, to adjust the script's raw intentions, would only detract from the ferocity of the ideas: race cards are thrown about like a game of 52 pick up and Mamet treads into territory uncomfortable and almost racist. Yet the interplay between this great cast, and Mamet's ability to flip positions with finesse, makes this an exciting and emotive production.

Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 3.20pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12).

Race by David Mamet

  • 4 stars

South African Season | The Playhouse Company and Assembly A hotel room in disarray: lamps broken, cigarette butts, liquor bottles, a red sequin dress and a man accused of rape. The accused, white. The accuser, black. Shame, guilt, class, sex, lies and race are proactively stirred together in this fast-paced piece by…