Sarah Rutherford’s bold play opened at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, the theatre at which she is writer in residence. Adult Supervision tackles prejudice against mixed race people, and the implications for both black and white families. With daring humour, it’s an expose on the thinly-veiled racism disguised as ignorance from a middle class perspective.
The play’s 2008 setting does date the play, however the Obama election is the perfect catalyst to allow a frank discussion about boundaries and political correctness which is equally as relevant in today’s society. Four women sip on “Obamartinis” in ex-lawyer Natasha’s beautiful home scattered with Ethiopian embellishments, a symbol of her dedication to her two adoptive children’s heritage. As the drinks flow, tensions rise.
Natasha, played by Susannah Doyle, is truly terrifying. Throughout the play we discover more about this awfully uptight woman and Doyle does a great job when Natasha becomes somewhat hysterical. Natasha’s self proclaimed best friend, Izzy, played by Olivia Poulet, clumsily trips over the right thing to say. As a white woman with a white husband and white children who are “so pale they glow”, Izzy is frustrated that she can’t be a part of what she cleverly dubs the “multicultural mafia”. Poulet has brilliant comedic timing on the silly remarks, I – along with most of the audience – was cringing every time she opened her mouth.
Most of Izzy’s ignorant but genuine attempts at fitting in are directed at poor Angela, the black woman whose partner, Owen, is white. Jacqueline Boatswain manoeuvres around Angela’s heavily pregnant frame with some great physical comedy and then reveals a delicious secret of her own. Amy Robbins as Mo, the white mother whose partner is the black father of her mixed race children, is the instigator in turning what was intended to be a very mild evening watching the election into disaster and debauchery. Though necessary in pushing the story along, some of Mo’s reactions seemed a little dramatic.
Although Mo and Angela are under the impression that their attendance is due to being mothers at the same private school as Izzy and Natasha, Izzy unwittingly reveals that they had only been invited as “mothers of children of colour”. In an all female cast, it’s rare to have such fluidity in the character of the villain. Cleverly exposing several equally astonishing revelations, the villain appears to be each of them in turn.
I’m not sure what, if any, the message was, but to allow the discourse to challenge how we think about race is a relief. I feel Rutherford is encouraging us to have these discussions instigated by moments in the play and make the message ourselves.
Adult Supervision is wonderfully performed and brilliantly written; a hilarious play I urge you to discover for yourselves.
Adult Supervision is running until 3 November at Park Theatre. For tickets and more information go to the Park Theatre website.