Review: random, Leeds Playhouse

debbie tucker green is something special. She may write poetry, but it is poetry of the people – a musical reproduction of everyday speech, where each character speaks a slightly different genre. random is a one-woman rendition of this poetry, in which the actor presents the internal monologue of four members of a family over the course of one day.

The beauty of the actor, Kiza Deen, is her normality. She is emotive without being emotional, and she made me cry without any sign of crying herself. In a play as tragic as it is random, she builds the story with sensitivity and simplicity. You are sure she reminds you of someone you probably know but can’t quite work out who or why. The everyday reactions of each family member to an incredibly sad event are surprisingly human; the family seem to be bickering instead of grieving. Deen’s portrayal catches the messy human reactions to an extreme situation. There is nothing grandiose or excitable and you get the sense that everyone is always talking over each other without saying anything important, and yet, Deen is very clear in her portrayal. You feel what the characters feel, and experience the progression of their thoughts.

One-woman plays are not easy. One-woman plays written in verse that have to come across as everyday speech are flipping hard. Deen holds the audience with eye contact that is intimate and personal without being intense. She makes the ebb and flow of the verse shape the colloquialisms of the speech and define the characters. While the characters of the brother and sister were initially clearer than the mother, she grew into her characterisation as the play went on and all the personalities filled out.

Still, at times I got the sense that I was listening to poetry being recited, rather than lives being lived in verse. There was a slightly rehearsed tinge to the rhythm and intonation, particularly at the beginning of the play. But either I stopped noticing this later or Deen got into her stride as the show went on, because I ended up completely engrossed in the story and the language.

random is an important piece of work. It extends the dramatic repertoire available to black woman by leaps and bounds, and it is a good fit in the Leeds Playhouse’s cute and cosy pop-up theatre. This production takes the human condition, walks around with it and presents it to us with no-nonsense tenderness. Brava.

random is playing at the Leeds Playhouse until 16 February. For more information and tickets, see the Leeds Playhouse website.