In Statement of Regret, Kwaku Mackenzie, the founder of a black policy think tank, hits the bottle after his father’s death. When, in a vain attempt to regain influence, he publicly champions divisions within the black community, the consequences are shattering. Should black Britons have solidarity – or not?
Elmina's Kitchen won the 2003 Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright and in 2005 it transferred to the Garrick Theatre, where Kwei-Armah (well known to TV fans from Casualty) took over the starring role and it became the first play by a black Briton in the West End.
In Statement of Regret, Don Warrington, who played Kwei-Armah’s feckless father in Elmina's Kitchen, stars as Kwaku Mackenzie. Also in the cast are Angel Coulby, Oscar James, Trevor Laird, Colin McFarlane, Chu Omambala, Javone Prince, Clifford Samuel and Ellen Thomas. The production is directed by Jeremy Herrin (who had a hit earlier this year at the Royal Court with Polly Stenham’s That Face) and designed by Mike Britton. It continues in rep until 6 February 2008.
Inevitably, Statement of Regret caused critics to recall Kwei-Armah’s earlier instalments in his triptych – as well as Roy Williams’ new play on a similar theme – and, for most, the new piece was found wanting in comparison. (With the exception of the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer, who declared that Kwei-Armah “is back in blazing form”.) Though all admitted that Kwei-Armah’s ideas were ambitious, most felt that, in terms of presentation, they did not work dramatically. Nevertheless, there was widespread praise for Don Warrington’s “Lear-like” performance as Kwaku.
- by Terri Paddock