“If you ignore your history then you become a shadow” – Edmund, Shadows
Shadows, a new play from Carguil Lloyd George Webley and directed by the white American Kevin Michael Reed, is set in a prison cell with three very different men who have one thing in common, their ethnicity. However, how they react to their race is extremely different. Edmund sees it as extremely important and classifying and he tries to convince Chase to acknowledge and embrace his Jamaican roots that he feels are irrelevant and nominal. Balak is yet another story. He feels a profound connection to past racial abuse and the history of slavery, and is conscious of its legacy that still fuels the careers of white men today.
Why these men are in prison is a mystery to us at first, but it becomes apparent that none of them seem to be psychopathic, questioning the prejudice that surrounds our justice system; 15% of the UK prison population is black whilst only 2.2% of the country is black. This fact speaks to itself.
A key strength of this play is the way the relationships between the characters develop. There is a strong defensiveness in all of them that stops them being fully close. However, there is also a unique bond that develops between all of them as they seem to penetrate completely into each other’s insecurities and belief-systems, deconstructing them before our eyes; we hear facts about their families, their childhoods and their sex-lives.
A live camera is used effectively, projecting soliloquies on to the back wall, creating a profundity to these more epic moments that seem to transcend the walls of the prison that we are otherwise trapped in. Admittedly, there are moments when the storyline drags slightly and the structure of the play leaves something to be desired. The ending is slightly nonsensical and perhaps a little too overt and unnecessary. However, there is a strong emotional message that is conveyed effectively through the beauty of the language – that all of us are human and need to respect each other. We are all responsible for ourselves but are also inextricably linked not just to our family and friends, but also to society as a whole. We should think about the consequences and implications of our choices.
In all, Shadows is a moving display of superb acting in the lovely space that is Theatro Technis. It is adding another important voice to the ever-growing conversation on race and is certainly a complimentary contribution.
Shadows is playing at Theatro Technis until December 7 2017.
Photo: Theatro Technis