Controversial deaths seem to be a catalyst for riots, which in turn leads to difficult conversations about race the world over. Man Down is no exception. Set against the Baltimore Riots, the piece explores the intricacies of an interracial relationship between Eva (played by Camila Ascencio) and Michael (Terrence Wayne II). Their connection sparks when Eva (a journalist), interviews Michael (a social worker), about his job.
The initial catalyst is created by a potential police prescene in the form of Eva’s white passing brother, Eddy (Samuel Garnett). Eddy, wishes to join the police, and he begins to provoke the couple, forcing them to share things that they have never before expressed. This is when issues of trust start to manifest, with resentment building close behind.
Calarts Festival Theater put on a challenging piece with minimal set, and the direction and fluidity with which the actors perform give life to the script. The company use the space in full, unafraid of boundaries, in much the same way that their language isn’t afraid to challenge whomever it meets.
There is a perfect mix of poetry and activism within the production, and it allows the audience to experience microaggresions, police brutality and heartbreak with complicity. It is so easy, with the ever-growing list of fatalities at the hands of the police force in the US, to just shove the need for change into the faces of their spectators (which has been a marked activity at this years Edinburgh Fringe Festival). However, with Man Down, the subtlety with which the relationship of Eva and Michael is explored, as well as the privilege of Eva and Eddy’s upbringing, makes the piece stand above the rest.
This is first and foremost a love story. One that is trying to survive racism, police brutality and annoying family members who overstay their welcome. The actors carry this piece with elegance, and it is clear that they feel passionately for the story running through them. And with them, so did we.
Man Down is playing Venue 13 until August 25th. For more information and tickets, see here.
Photo Credit: Ross Constable