Left – (l-r) Bert LaBonté and Zahra Newman. (l-r) Patrick Brammall, Laura Gordon, Bert LaBonté, Zahra Newman, Greg Stone and Alison Whyte. Photos – Jeff Busby
Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Clybourne Park takes no prisoners as it storms the stage set to amuse and offend everyone present. Through constant witty banter between his characters he bridges the gap between 1959 and 2009 by setting his play in the glorious Clybourne Park mansion.
An all-white community, 1959’s Clybourne Park is the perfect place for young upper-middle class Americans to raise their apple pie children. Yet when grieving couple Bev and Russ (Alison Whyte and Greg Stone) prepare to sell their home to a black family they most certainly upset the apple cart.
Approached by do-gooder Karl (Patrick Brammall), he begs them to renege their offer and sell their house to the church to avoid disrupting their perfect community. When Russ refuses, the two chase each other in hilarious circles as Karl offends every minority possible.
The second act jumps forward 50 years where a young white couple want to move in the now all-black neighbourhood of Clybourne Park and are met with opposition by current residents who don’t want their kind living there.
The role reversal between black and white racism exposes society for the deep prejudices that are still held with gusto. Through humour and brilliant writing, it is wonderful to see how people react when the shoe is on the other foot.
For Clybourne Park shows that no one has a home by default, rather we must make it for ourselves. In 1959 Bev and Russ can no longer stand to live in a home where there was is family and 2009 sees desperate to make a place where they can raise their family.
Met with constant conflict, the fast paced antics of Norris’s characters are played by a stunning seven-piece cast who take on multiple roles. The gorgeous Zahra Newman is brilliant as the feisty 1950’s black housemaid Francine who submits to Bev’s every whim (although with a large grain of salt).
Director Peter Evans has achieved something very special with Clybourne Park; he has shown the barriers between black and white still remain, even in our apparently un-prejudiced society.
Set in the same place, 50 years and worlds apart from each other, Clybourne Park is a wickedly dark comedy about racism, grief and how far we’ve really come in accepting our neighbours.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Director Peter Evans
Venue: MTC Sumner Theatre, Southbank
Dates: 17 September – 22 October, 2011