debbie tucker green returns to the Royal Court with her newest play, ear for eye. Sewn together using her signature poetic style, ear for eye is a compilation of conversations centring on the Black experience in both America and the UK.

Directed by tucker green herself, ear for eye is a triumph in every sense of the word: written and directed beautifully; performed with intense depth, pain and truth – wrapped in a simple but effective stage design and Christopher Shutt’s steadily mounting sound design. Split into three parts over the course of two hours and the very intentional lack of an interval, ear for eye is not for the weak or easily discomforted.


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The stage is populated with Black bodies of different sizes and ages with different accents and from different environments, but the universal struggle of race is ever-present (as is the ensemble). There is tangible pain of a shared experience permeating every scene of parts 1 and 2. With a cast of 16, the show is a massive undertaking and the stage is flooded with talent; there is not one weak link in this chain of vibrant storytelling. And this show is a true ensemble show, in which no one actor or character or story is more important than the other. By no easy feat, the cast take tucker green’s identifiable and deliberate poetic way of writing and deliver it in such a way that sweeps you up into their worlds, forgetting that often pain is not presented in such delicate wrapping.

tucker green manages to funnel years into hours. We are with the characters through arrests and protests; intimate conversations and public addresses; moments of dissent among people who care about each other because their approaches to dealing with oppression are at direct odds.

Hatred
and anger
and love
and distress
and helplessness
and hopelessness
and survival
and laughter
and endurance.

All personified – given faces, voices and stories; elevated from emotions felt by people in old books or on the other side of the world, and positioned right in front of you.

The show is difficult, no doubt about it. What struck me very viscerally about the show was the certainty of futility. All of the stories of the characters we meet have unsatisfying ends; no sense of retribution or justification. And that is a very powerful tool – this is the kind of show to spark change, because “progress is [too] slow”. Two hours of underserved pain, unfair treatment, and unjust silencing without respite is hard to swallow, hard to watch. And so it should be, because it is hard to live. ear for eye may not be a light outing, it may not be comfortable, but it is so very necessary.

ear for eye is playing at the Royal Court until 24 November. For more information and tickets, click here.