Arts Council apparatchiks and theatre directors are always chasing the elusive `new audience’. Well, I’ve news for them - they’ve only to see Debbie Tucker Green’s Random to see that new audience in action.
Debbie Tucker Green is hardly the new girl on the block though. An Olivier “Most Promising Playwright” award winner as long ago as four years, she’s since been churning out new plays at a rate of knots. Her subjects range through today’s topical hot spots from Aids (the wonderful requiem for lost generations in South Africa, Generations), to boy soldiers and sex tourism. Random could hardly be more pertinent as it covers the recent spate of teenage killings and stabbings.
But Tucker Green doesn’t really attempt to explain why or how this tragic phenomenon is occurring. Bola Agbaje’s Gone Too Far!, to be revived at the Royal Court Downstairs in July (and an Olivier Award winner as of last week) digs much deeper into possible causes in that regard. What Tucker Green does give us, however, is a fascinating choral mosaic.
One of her influences has been the Afro-American writer, Ntozake Shange, and like Shange – and, to an extent, Tarrel Alvin McCraney’s much admired The Brothers Size last year at the Young Vic - Tucker Green’s language is a thrilling mix of sounds. Even if, for some of us, it is sometimes hard to comprehend, so strong on occasions is the Afro-Caribbean-London urban patois.
But what, to me, is sometimes unreachable is clearly recognisable to others. Random - with its impressionistic, diary treatment of “one day in the life of” a family of the seemingly random murder of their young son - is equally clearly a piece of theatre that speaks to today’s generation in their own tongue and of a world they know only too well.
On a bare Royal Court stage that darkens as the day’s events unfold, Sacha Wares’ production glories in its solo performer - the quite remarkable Nadine Marshall. As the narrator, the daughter of the family, Marshall swings through the varying characters of daughter, son, destroyed mum, father and friends, adopting a hunch of the shoulders here, a pointing of the finger there. Somehow even within this saddest of accounts, Marshall and Wares manage to bring out a bleak kind of humour.
The audience, by turns, howl in recognition and then fall silent as the full implication breaks through. In Tucker Green’s hands, the message is certainly in the medium but the moral disguised with a jaunty, streetwise familiarity that makes it only too appealing. Clever.