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REVIEW: STATEMENT OF REGRET

 

Wednesday, December 5, 2007.

 

By Belinda Otas

 

3 Stars

 

Kwame Kwei-Armah is back at The National Theatre with his third play, ‘Statement Of Regret’. After the success of Elmina’s Kitchen and Fix UP, his latest offering is a daring attempt to address the deep seated divisions that exists between Africans and Afro-Caribbeans in Britain.

 

Kwaku Mackenzie is the founder and head of IBPR, a political think-thank that raises awareness about issues which affects these two groups. However, the death of his father and the guilt he felt for not being at his death-bed was too much of a burden to bear and he hit the bottle.

 

To make matters worse, his family home is in disarray with the arrival of his illegitimate but academically brilliant son, in addition to losing the confidence of those who work for him. Kwaku is a self condemned man, whose decision- making ability has become more impaired since his heavy drinking sessions.

 

This will prove costly when IBPR, under Kwaku’s direction takes a radical step in complete contradiction to everything it stands for; instead of fighting for the rights of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans, it decides to focus on Afro-Caribbeans only. Creating a disunited Black-British community that even the extreme right group, the British National Party (BNP), wants him to speak at some of their events.

 

However, the tensions goes beyond politics; they are also personal, as the characters are forced to face up to the stark reality of their individual lives and their hidden prejudices.

 

The stage is set for questions to be asked about the role of slavery in the frosty relationship that still exists between both communities. The play's argument is also based on ‘Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome’, championed in real life by the African American academic, Dr Joy De Gruy Leary.

 

Simultaneously, it's seeking to know how far we have come as a community and the amount of healing to be done before we can move on from the burden of slavery.

 

Laced with humour, energetic dialogue and an outstanding performance from the cast. Don Warrington's Kwaku Mackenzie is superb in the lead role. So is Chu Omambala's Idrissa Adebayo - the out-spoken Oxbridge educated gay and intelligent research director. 

 

While it would have been easier to be an outsider looking in on the action, Kwei-Armah's writing resonates with stories and incidents that I have heard of and witnessed in past times within my community, as a person of African descent living in the UK.  He has managed to touch a nerve that needs healing from all sides.

 

A visceral piece of writing, which losses its way in the second half of the production, by giving in to the emotions that run high and taking focus away from the compelling subject matter it started with. Nonetheless, ‘Statement Of Regret’ is a provocative take on a rather delicate issue which is still a taboo when raised in some quarters of the African and Afro-Caribbean communities.

 

Director: Jeremy Herrin

Designer: Mike Britton

Lighting Designer: Natasha Chivers

Sound Designer: Yvonne Gilbert

Music: Soweto Kinch

 

Cast: Don Warrington, Colin McFalane, Chu Omambala, Angel Coulby, Ellen Thomas, Javone Prince, Trevor Laird, Clifford Samuel and Oscar James.

 

Statement Of Regret is now showing at the National Theatre until January 2008

 

For more information: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Tel: 020 7 452 3000

 

Photographer: Keith Pattison

 

Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's theatre editor. She can be reached at belindaotas@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

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