Vital vital vital…
…the word keeps echoing in my head about Olivier & BAFTA award-winning debbie tucker green’s new passionate ensemble piece ‘ear for eye‘ showing at the Royal Court.
Not only is it a landmark piece for many reasons such as, an entirely black ensemble piece on the main stage at the Royal Court Theatre, as well as the first deaf Black actor at the Royal Court (Jamal Ajala) , it is also a piece which asks questions that have yet to be fully addressed about police brutality. How does one actually survive or circumvent it? Can it be circumvented at all? Or is the answer not in “getting along” but rising up no matter how they choose to then paint or label us? It is a beautiful snapshot of the myriad of ways we exist as black people, and the one very common way, we are all seen as black.
ear for eye is created as a series of different snapshots, looking at varying aspects of the racial injustice timeline we ultimately all run into through the lens of different characters trying to live their lives in modern society. From parents trying to keep their sons (and this in itself is very interesting and sad; that it is more our young men’s survival that we fear for than our young women) alive by schooling them on where to keep their hands when they get stopped by the police, so as to not get shot, to the harrowing, demeaning process of being wrongfully arrested and processed for the “crime” of being black and therefore looking “all the same” in the ignorant eyes of the law, to the desire to do something to address these wrongs, to the actual doing and the repercussions; and this is all in part 1.
In part 2, tucker green goes even further. To the aftermath of violence and how it is rationalised away when the instigator of the violence is white. A simple truth that is part of this control-structure; if you are of colour, you are a terrorist, if you are white, you must have had a reason for acting out. It cannot wholly be your fault. Typically, tucker green categorically shows us in this piece how the entire life of the African American and the Black British man, woman, boy, girl gets controlled from birth to death by the ignorant, racist and corrupt system and keeps us asking the question, “give me a reason to not” do something about it. The beauty is, no one can give a reason, and no one should.
This piece is one of the most eloquent and moving call-to-arms I have ever witnessed. I am personally, ecstatic that tucker green herself directed her words, as any other individual trying to translate her work into existence may have diluted down the rich, raw and powerful passion with which she wrote the piece. They certainly could not have kept us riveted for two hours straight without any intermission. I wondered how she would handle this, but ended up rejoicing at the intelligence of her bravery. Life has no intermission from the day-to-day. It is a cumulative waterfall of emotions and experiences that take you from one experience to another. So too is the emotional ride tucker green takes us on from part 1 to 2 to 3 in this piece.
Every single member of the ensemble is mind-blowingly fantastic. Some actors perform the same monologues as others (for example, Michelle Greenidge (Nine Nights, The Intent franchise) and Eric Kofi Abrefa (Informer, Humans) both speak of the injustice of being stopped, arrested and degraded by the police as a result of fitting a “profile“. Both deliver this powerful monologue so emphatically and truthfully and yet so differently that you witness the wide-ranging coverage of emotions that one could feel in that situation. Both make it their own, and in this is an innate brilliance, linking our struggles, showing different sides of how the same issue breaks us down or buoys us up.
Part 2’s debate between Lashana Lynch (Bulletproof, Still Star Crossed) and Demetri Goritsas (Ransom, Black Mirror) is perfect to watch. Her character’s obvious personal issues pitted against the calm all-encompassing arrogance of Goritsas creates a juicy tension and power play. It especially resonates because our competitors are a white man and a black woman which immediately sets up a handicap because Lynch has to get her points across without morphing into the stereotype of “angry” or “aggressive” even though, she has every right to be given the situation unfolding in front of her.
To write much more will give too much away but this piece is more than informative. It is the apple given in Eden to imbue with purpose, with shame, with love, with pride and with action.
Book your ticket before it sells out.
ear for eye runs until Saturday the 24th November at the Royal Court find out more and book tickets here.
Written and directed by debbie tucker green
The cast – Angela Wynter, Shaniqua Okwok, Nicholas Pinnock, Sarah Quist, Anita Reynold, Faz Singhateh, Michelle Greenidge, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Lashana Lynch, Hayden McLean, Kayla Meikle, Jamal Ajala, Tosin Cole, Seroca Davis, George Eggay, Demetri Goritsas.