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Typical, written by Ryan Calais Cameron, depicts the true story of Christopher Alder, one of brutality and racism experienced one tragic night in 1998. Richard Blackwood plays Alder, a Black ex-paratrooper living in Hull. Alder is a highly patriotic man and a devoted father to his two sons with his ex-wife.
We first meet Alder, a bubbly and charismatic man, dancing to Chaka Demus and getting himself hyped up for a night on the town — a night which his friends bail on because they’re too tired. The familiar obstacle of life (and exhaustion) getting in the way of going out as you once did. Alder manages to convince two friends to come out with him, but they bail early in the evening leaving Alder alone to continue with a night he is committed to.
The pace of the piece, whilst mimicking Alder’s evening, is a slow compounding of racist microaggressions building to a crescendo of brutal violence. A bouncer seems to prioritise white people’s entry into a club, a woman fetishises him as a black man and repeatedly notes her lack of experience with “people like you” and notes how her father would feel if she was seen with him.
Alder is notably calm in response to these — we hear his monologue proliferating through his brain reminding him to be the bigger person. He remains calm in response to baiting from three white men inside the nightclub who call him a ‘good dog’ when he turns to leave. Three men who attack Alder outside the nightclub leading to him being hospitalised.
In hospital familiar narratives surrounding ‘aggressive’ black men and assumptions about Alder’s injuries lead to him becoming justifiably agitated and ending up in police custody where his life is stolen from him.
Blackwood speaks in rhythmic poetic speeches akin to the work of Shakespeare, and beautifully portrays an honest, kind man with a faith in humanity and Britain. We see a man with a future, full of aspirations, cruelly taken away by senseless violence from violent bigots and then an institutionally racist police force.
Typical is a vital piece in portraying our police’s history and in giving a voice to a man who was silenced. Calais Cameron’s exceptional writing, Blackwood’s emotional performance and the sensitive and subtle direction of Anastasia Osei-Kuffour create a stunning, heartbreaking piece of theatre. It is imperative that we acknowledge our failure to protect Black lives and continue to tell and listen to these stories. Black Lives Matter.
Typical is now available to watch On Demand. For more information and tickets see Soho Theatre’s website.