debbie tucker green
Leeds Playhouse, Pop-Up Theatre
Ten years after it was first performed at the Royal Court, debbie tucker green’s 55-minute monologue random still retains the power to move and provoke in equal measure.
This one-woman drama was originally performed by Nadine Marshall, who subsequently starred in the BAFTA-winning TV adaptation. In this production, however, it is the extraordinary Kiza Deen who plays all the members of a black family in contemporary London—including Sister, Brother, Mum and Dad—over the course of one ill-fated day.
The day begins ordinarily enough with the sister—the show’s main voice—waking up annoyed that her on-off boyfriend hasn’t been in touch, and her teenage brother reluctant to go to school after a late night. Eventually, they are both cajoled out of the house by their doting fusspot mum, who is determined they greet the day with food in their bellies (burnt porridge) and warm clothes on their backs.
From these early scenes of familial warmth and affection—given added texture by green’s poetic language—the play eventually gives way to tragedy when one of the family members is fatally stabbed.
random is not a proselytising play by any means—it’s far too subtle for that—but it responds to the epidemic of knife crime in a thoughtful and emotional way by showing us how an act of senseless violence can obliterate a family. It’s estimated that 40,147 knife-related offences took place in the UK between March 2017 and 2018, so this production could hardly be timelier.
A play of this sort demands an actor of considerable versatility and power, and Kiza Deen rises to the challenge with great aplomb. She is a magnetic performer, capable of shifting effortlessly between characters without falling into caricature. Each member of the family is vividly brought to life through voice and physical gesture. Moreover, her vocal delivery means that green’s Afro-Caribbean-accented dialogue really sings.
A one-woman show could easily be swallowed up by the temporary stage at Leeds Playhouse, but director Gbolahan Obisesan and Kiza Deen have worked well together to ensure they make the most of the space. Max Johns’s striking set design—a precarious-looking structure made out of interlocking chairs—provides a powerful backdrop, threatening collapse and destruction at any moment. Chloe Kenward’s subtle lighting clearly evokes the production’s changes of time and place.
random may be short, but its dramatic impact is immense.
Reviewer: James Ballands