Random

debbie tucker green
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs
(2008)

After a fairly disastrous start, Random became a compelling and totally overwhelming theatrical experience. That is saying a lot, since this topical drama has a single performer and lasts barely 50 minutes.

The media is full of stories of random killings of Black teenagers who innocently stray into other people's wars. They have become so common, that unless something out of the ordinary has taken place, one doesn't even offer a second glance at this week's tale of potential cut dreadfully short.

Where debbie tucker green really scores is in humanising a single story of one of these victims, showing how a family can be destroyed between breakfast and lunch.

Nadine Marshall, wearing a white jacket over dark clothes, looks tiny on the opened out stage. Initially, she is also pretty much inaudible, not helped by the patois used by two of her characters.

She ably switched between lazy father, put-upon mother and the two kids but much of what she was saying remained a mystery without the assistance of a script.

Broadly, the playwright was portraying a typical family from South London with its mischievous son, a schoolboy who loves cheeking his elders and admiring himself.

For twenty minutes, the picture of normality is built up by the quartet until the police arrive. Our initial reaction is the result of social conditioning. If the law arrives at the home of a Black teenager, he must be in serious trouble. It is comforting that his sister's reaction was identical.

Slowly, both we and she realise that his trouble is terminal and at that point, she takes over the narration of a story that will put a chill into the heart of every parent. This kind of random murder could happen to any of us.

debbie tucker green likes to write short, poetic plays and on this occasion judges her audience perfectly, constructing this short solo show brilliantly, helped by her director Sasha Wares and Miss Marshall. They are both adept at finding laughs in cultural stereotypes but, when the pathos starts, ensuring that there will not be a dry eye in the house.

This is an unusual choice for the Royal Court's Downstairs Theatre and some work is needed in order to make the first half work for a good proportion of the audience. Even so, this is a wonderful piece of theatre that will surely prove a popular touring show for years to come.

Playing until 12 April

Reviewer: Philip Fisher