Revealed @ The Tobacco Factory Theatres Bristol

Revealed by Daniel J Carver takes us to a family-run Jamaican restaurant in the heart of Birmingham.

The set, designed by Amanda Mascarenhas, constructs this space, complete with chairs and tables for waiting guests. However, it is immediate from the moment you walk in that all is not what it seems. The walls of the set have been artfully deconstructed, like puzzle-pieces, indicating a deep fracture is at the heart of this play. With effective sound design of growing rumbles and sirens (Khalil Madovi), supplanted with blue lights flashing into my eyes (Joe Price), the police and human presence outside the doors of the restaurant is tangible.

The play begins. Three Black men; three generations – Sidney (Everal A Walsh), father Malcolm (Daniel J Carver) and son Luther (Dylan Brady), walk onto the stage silently with the lights dimmed. Two leave, and one remains. Lights up, and the action starts. As the play progresses, we learn that a riot occurs. Jerome, a sixteen-year-old Black boy – similar age to Luther, is in a coma after being detained by the police. People are rioting in the streets out of frustration at the racialised violence from policing structures that seek to criminalise young Black boys before they have the opportunity to defend themselves.

L-R (Sydney) Everal A Walsh, Malcolm (Daniel J Carver) and Luther (Dylan Brady) – Image Credit: Mark Dawson

The riot, caused by Jerome’s treatment and his later death, is a core plot point of the play, which branches off into other areas once unspoken secrets are uncovered. Unfolding in real-time the time we spend watching the action on stage is equivalent to the time that passes. Except for the interval, there are no scene changes, no time jumps. This is all happening now. This immediacy sustains the growing tension, while also keeping a level of claustrophobia with the singleness of the location. Whilst this was effective, it led to some aspects of plot and development feeling rushed, as everything needed to unfold within the runtime of the piece – 2hrs 10mins, which created issues with the pacing. Moments of physical violence and sudden declarations of a divorce felt more puzzling rather than startling. The story would have benefitted if it allowed itself some room to breathe.

Boldly challenging ideas on Black masculinity, allowing each character to bring a different perspective, issues surrounding sexuality, religion, and family, are allowed to take the limelight. Although compelling, there were times the characters became more archetypes than fully fleshed beings – repeating talking points rather than fully embodying who they were. Malcom’s aggression towards his homosexual son, and the anger returned from son to father was kept as a consistent level of antagonism throughout the play, giving Carver little room to showcase the range of his abilities. Lines such as “you’re not gay, you’re just confused” sounded as though they had been plucked verbatim from a homophobic phrasebook.

L-R (Sydney) Everal A Walsh and Luther (Dylan Brady) – Image Credit: Mark Dawson

Revealed works best when it provided nuances for the characters, one example being Sidney’s monologue that explained the penal reason behind his absence from Malcom’s childhood and illustrated the generational trauma within racism. This moment highlighted Walsh’s excellent acting abilities and was a welcome change to his earlier comedy and the witty banter with his grandson.

Black masculinity is a complex thing, marked as dangerous, restricted in expression, and still fetishised and exploited for profit. Revealed uses one family and one tragic death to evoke this in a play with moments of sharp writing stemming from the experiences of writer and actor Carver. Ultimately, it may have fared better if it trusted itself more, and if the text was regarded as a work of performance, rather than an opportunity to construct a debate with opposing views.


Revealed ran at the Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol 22 Sep – 08 Oct 2022.

SUMMARY

With sharp writing, ‘Revealed’ raises bold questions on Black masculinity by using one family to explore intergenerational trauma stemming from racial abuse. However, the play would have fared better with more focus on the work as a piece for performance, rather than an avenue for debate.

OUT OF 100

Script
50 %
Story
55 %
Acting
60 %
Characters
50 %
Directing
60 %
Costume
60 %
Soundtrack
60 %
Production Design
70 %
For the Culture
65 %
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