13 Oct 2019
My first time at the Finborough Theatre, though I’m told it’s got a fantastic reputation among the small “over the pub” ones. Looks about 45-50 seats.
The subject matter wasn’t far from that covered thoroughly by Admissions, but it has Janie Dee in it, so I couldn’t help but find the time to see it.
The acting is top notch. Janie Dee doesn’t disappoint as an American History professor at an American uni. Accent is spot on. He character is written to represent what I think is the majority view of people who consider themselves progressive: some pretty bad things happened in our history, so let’s learn from them to move ourselves to a better future. She is a child of immigrant parents, has a wonky name, is a lesbian, and is close to the being the only female in a male dominated profession (she’s also an advisor to the government on political conflicts in the world). She had to work hard to get where she is, and she’s not going to let someone advance unless they put in the hard work that matches her own trajectory. Some of the latter is in the words, some in the acting. She has health issues, and Dee is so subtle with that: she doesn’t make it in your face (except where the script spells it out), but it’s gently underlined. There are so many layers to this character in the acting… Writing of her was a bit one-dimensional I thought.
Akinola plays a student. She is fantastic too. I’ve never heard of her and was shocked to find out after the show that this is her professional debut. That woman will go far in theatre, no doubt. She plays a black student who wrote a draft of her term paper that the professor indicates wouldn’t get a very good grade for reasons X,Y,Z. But she likes the student and offers suggestions for a rewrite.
Akinola simply shines. The anger, the entitlement, the belief that her priorities are the right one… I was waiting for her to leap across the room and physically assault the professor. You start thinking of her character as a righteous politically clued up young woman and end up thinking she is a grade-grubbing millennial with a sense of entitlement who needs to be taught a thing or two about life.
I won’t spoil it for those who want to see it with some of the finer points of the play. The second act is more muddled than the first, and the play doesn’t really have a ending (the lights just go down mid-conversation), so _for me_ felt like a cheap trick from the writer who had a good idea but didn’t know where to take it.
Cheapskate enjoyment value: £7 (would’ve been 10 if it had some kind of an ending)