An ear for an eye (purposefully lower –case, like the writer), was stimulation for my sensory as it unapologetically explored my favorite subject… RACE!
Broken into three ‘traditional’ Acts, the first Act looks at how Black bodied people perceive the perception of the Black body by law enforcers, usually White bodied. One theme, amongst many, that ear for an eye shares with my most recent review of THUG (The Hate U Give), is the conversation that Black parents MUST have with their children WHEN faced with the moment of being stopped by the police. As disturbing as this realisation is, an ear for an eye thoroughly and repeatedly shows scenes where the conversation of how you sound, how you stand - may stop you from being shot, but start you on a journey of low self esteem, self doubt… self annihilation?
A stretch? I think not! There is a definite correlation between self-esteem and ‘Black on Black’ violence. And not just knife crime! But annihilation of self because you don’t want to live in a particular area, speak with a particular accent, wear the correct (NW Dark-skinned) foundation, date exclusively outside of your race. Yeah… that’s self-annihilation too! And I think it is rooted in oppression.
The first Act has the entire cast on stage, with breakaway scenes occupying the centre stage. Although the cast never refers to themselves as the ‘diaspora’ – this was the backstory I gave. Especially because the many Black bodies that remained on stage throughhout this Act, trigged images of protest and prison. It also sparked an image of a magical, ritualistic circle.
Diaspora – descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the Americas and Caribbean.
So what I saw on stage were descendants of enslaved Africans hundreds of years on, facing a new form of oppression – arguably a new form of slavery. And like the ancestors before them, in ear for an eye these Black bodied beings are talking, plotting, working out a way, their way, to freedom. Our ears may hear a different sound in the accents (one family also used sign language to communicate) but those that perceive us (eye), see the same body... the Black boy only.
With the loaded debate about Black British actors/ actresses playing African America roles – the choice of having both British and American families talking about the same issues was golden, current, refreshing and unifies our experience of oppression.
It also unifies White British law and European American racism. With the use of pre-recorder footage in Act 3 - legislation and law is read out to camera in a documentary style - to nail systemic and institutional racism! Facts that back the experiences explored in Act 1. Reading these laws were White people – young, old, abled and disabled, Americans and British - the camera lens zooming in at nuances from these White bodied, uncomfortable speakers.
Note – A school group was also a part of the audience and watching behind me. They were loud and I argued with myself as to whether I should shout back and tell them to BE QUIET! had I turned into some type of self-oppressor by having this thought? This moment made me really take a reality check on how we can all fall victim of our own theoretic political views… die by our own tongue and sword.
Defensive of this fact - I started excusing my behavior to not being able to fully focus on a play by my favourite playwright. But actually on reflection I think my constant experience of being surrounded by a certain theatre etiquette infected my ability to be inclusive to an audience who very much needed to experience a debbie tucker-green play. Isn’t that loaded?
Anyway, we were all silenced as we listened, in particular to children, White children, read out racist law set by England and executed in the States and the Caribbean.
This was my favorite act – as it cleverly and clearly demonstrated debbie tucker-greens ear for sound and language. This Act was easiest to focus on as only two characters occupied the stage. A Black woman and a White man in a corporate setting in New York and the power dynamics that is all too familiar. It brought tears to my eyes as we heard unapologetically the unconscious bias, discrimination and prejudices that surround the same events but the different results based on skin colour!
Catch ear for eye before it ends at the Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 24 November