It's America, 1970. Beau Brown, a black Vietnam veteran, still a young man, is questioned by a psychologist who is trying to establish his sanity. Beau has committed a serious crime and could be destined for the electric chair - is there anything the shrink can find out that will explain how Beau reached breaking point?
Characters from Beau's life weave in and out of this chronology-shifting tale, bringing new gobbets of information which flesh out his character and story. Sometimes, we feel compassion for his life, sometimes revulsion at his actions: there is precious little nobility in this wired and wiry boy-man. Beau is a product of his tough background and the pervasive racism of the time, but for how much of the trouble he has caused himself and others can he be held responsible?
Tabula Rasa theatre company have chosen well with this new work by Kristiana Colόn. Sparely staged, and neatly directed by Nadia Latif, the acting by a cast of chiefly British actors is first-rate. Adetomiwa Edun speaks Beau’s lines with real feeling for their jazz-lyricism; Sian Breckin spits like a cat on a hot tin roof as the white girlfriend with the hots for what she sees as the special sexual nature of black men; betrayed Crystal, once a little girl seduced on the stoop by Beau and doomed to be loyal to him is affectingly portrayed by Emanuelle Cole; Cornell S John as the psychologist shows his despair at the restrictions of his character’s position with a performance of poignant gravitas.
Once again in contemporary theatre, projected images are used (a cause for heart-sink), but at least here they are well done and largely relevant. At times, the writing is over-earnest, and there is not one laugh in the piece, which undermines its resemblance to real life. However, Colόn does manage her material ably, and avoids pat conclusions, leaving the audience plenty to debate.