Southampton Solent’s student-run organisation, The Quill Society, ran a trip to see A Raisin in the Sun performed at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton. It proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable event for everyone that went, myself included. Being an admirer of Lorraine Hasberry’s play prior to the show, I was eager the to see it performed live for the first time.
Lorraine Hansberry’s play tells the story of a working class African American family living in the slums of Chicago’s segregated Southside during the 1950s (slightly before the African American Civil Rights Movement). They long to leave their cramped home to move to greener pastures. However, when the opportunity arises for the family to do just that, they have conflicting ideas about how it should be done.
Eclipse Artistic Director Dawn Walton did a fantastic job; it is evident that a lot of work went in to this production. The set designer did a perfect job in emphasizing just how cramped the Younger family’s living situation was. The décor was simple and true to the style prevalent in America during the 1950s. Some houses in the Southside of Chicago at the time probably resembled it.
There was not much I could fault the show for, it was a truly excellent performance from the cast, most notably was the performance of award winning actor Ashley Zhangazha, who portrays the family patriarch. Three years after collecting an Ian Charleson Award for his role in Macbeth, Zhangazha continues his path to stardom in his portrayal of Walter Younger. The talented actor adeptly portrays a man who is clearly dissatisfied with his life situation. Walter’s growing impatience is orchestrated brilliantly by Zhangazha, as he plays on his compulsiveness and paces the stage in a deranged fashion. Walter’s madness, desperation and envy are key characteristics of the character that he expresses diligently.
Director Dawn Walton said “Hansberry allows her characters to speak the truth in a way that transcends time and place.” Fifty-seven years after it was first performed, it is troubling that this play still has contemporary relevance in its key theme of inequality. However, it is promising to see that there has been progress since then. Moreover, this is a play that is universally relevant due to the nature of the conflict within a family and crises of opportunity.
On a lighter note, Angela Wynter put in a strong performance as the conservative mother, Lena Younger. There was a great chemistry on stage between her and Susan Wokoma (Misfits, The Inbetweeners 2) who plays her daughter Beneatha as powerful scenes between them show the gap between the two generations, they have conflicting ideologies in the form of; religion, identity and feminism.
There were some scenes of comic relief inside the family drama, which are mostly the Youngers looking for their African heritage in an ignorant manner, full of clichés and stereotypes, to the amusement of the audience and the only African character, Asagai, played by Aron Julius.
It was an excellent performance from all of the actors and one that I recommend you go and see. The Nuffield Theatre is now offering £10.00 tickets for students with a valid student ID card. Buy tickets for A Raisin in the Sun on their website at www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk
Don’t miss The Quill Society’s next event, a writing workshop with Carolyn Cummings-Osmond, taking place on the 21st of March from 7-9pm.