Wednesday 6th February 2019 at Leeds Playhouse (Pop Up).
In random, Debbie Tucker Green really gets to the heart of just how hard hitting unexpected tragedy is. On a random day which only shows sign of discord in the way the weather typically can’t make up its mind, lives change without an inkling if a warning. The kids go to school. The parents stay home. The children bicker. The mum fusses. The dad is sleeping. Who could have guessed at the sharp turn in an unexpected direction just hours away from that morning routine? As Chloe Kenward’s Lighting Design subtly tracks the passage of time and shifts in tone, morning becomes afternoon and lives shift on their axis without warning.
Kiza Deen takes on this solo show with all the skill and emotional dexterity of an entire fleshed out cast. Few manage to deliver such an accomplished take on multiple roles – particularly when those roles interact at speed. Switching between the family members, Deen creates a world of bustle and people while being completely alone on stage. Under Direction of Gbolahan Obisesan, there’s no need for props and set is also clearly obsolete; a few shifts in voice, movement and posture weave all the transitions into the piece with fantastic simplicity, keeping the focus on the brilliant writing and performance. Given a simple space and an audience, Green, random and Deen hold an audience for every second of fifty five minutes.
The play follows a London family with West Indian heritage. The children have a London accent, the parents West Indian, meaning that not only is Deen switching between genders, voices, emotions and characteristics but also accents – and remember, all this at considerable speed. Deen also has to master the beauty of Green’s writing in all its transience and depth. Because even within a narrative of random acts of violence and devastating loss there’s great humour; that’s what makes the brutal elements such hammer blows and random is all the more moving for it’s perfectly planted comedy.
The play draws attention to the prominence of knife crime. Random attacks are too frequent and responses to them too ineffective. Pick up any London paper and you’ll no doubt see an update or a brand new knife crime story. The TV news offers sound bites of those who vaguely knew the victims. Images show hooded youths and the iconography of gangs. Rarely do they show the realities of the human cost behind the epidemic or the individuals behind the staggering and disturbing numbers. Green takes us deep within the hidden pain of the family behind the headline in lyrical terms but with hard-hitting realism; a powerful journey delivered in the most sincere and well crafted of ways.
random feels unapologetically political, humanising an issue which is increasingly politicised and explored in terms of statistics and numbers rather than names and faces. Deen is funny and vulnerable and fiery and charismatic as ‘Sister’ alone, but she explores all of the characters and the dynamics between them with extraordinarily impressive fluidity, setting this solo show well apart from others. We need more work like this on our stages.
random plays at the Leeds Playhouse Pop Up space until February 16th 2019 and you can find tickets here.