• Amy Toledano

In Search of a White Identity presented by The Actors Centre

Image courtesy of Joe Twigg

What Is It?

Originally created as part of The Actors Centre’s Working Class Season curated by Actor Awareness in 2019, In Search of a White Identity has been re-envisioned as a remotely accessed digital performance as part of the The Actors Centre’s on demand theatre season. Written by Cliffordkuju Henry and performed by Henry and Drew Edwards, In Search of a White Identity is directed by Victoria Evaristo and produced by Toad in the Hole Theatre company.

What Is It About?

Patrick and Mickey are childhood friends, but neither has seen the other since their formative years in working class London. Yet when the two grown men find themselves locked up in the same police cell following a fraught protest demonstration, Patrick and Mickey find themselves on different sides of the race debate that has permeated through this fractious year of 2020. This powerful two hander brings to light the difficult conversations that have been vital within our cultural consciousness, addressing the social parallels and injustices of modern Britain through a post-colonial and working class lens.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

There are some plays that are created with a sense of urgency to them, with a message and a dialogue that needs to be expressed immediately because of the cultural momentum behind them. In Search of a White Identity is one such play, re-imagined in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement of the past year and the global repercussions that have come with facing up to our white washed history and white supremacist culture.

This pressure cooker play could have easily become another show simply decrying the evils of white supremacy, highlighting the ignorant hatred of those who align themselves with the far right, but what this play does instead is far more nuanced and impactful. This is a play about dialogue, literally and figuratively, as the stark holding cell set offers little in the way of visual metaphor, instead focusing our entire attention upon the two men who occupy the space. The conversations, discussions and arguments shared between these two men take centre stage, and just as Drew Edwards’ Mickey frequently asserts that no one is listening to him and the white working class that he represents, the irony of his frustration becomes apparent the more he and Cliffordkuju Henry’s Patrick talk. This is a play about listening; talking and listening, something which can seem so simple at face value, but in reality, can bring with it great discomfort, pain and anguish.

Henry’s writing avoids any preaching pretence with its directness, and while it skirts around sentimentality, there is real heart in every word spoken by these two men. The contradictions and similarities between Mickey and Patrick’s experiences ring true and with sincerity, and the power of their connection is keenly felt. This is a play for our times, articulating the vital conversations that need to be had in modern Britain, conversations that demand a lot of hard, introspective work for those who have benefited from our white supremacist power structures.

Anything Else?

An urgent piece of theatre that offers a nuanced exploration into the parallels and contradictions of working class and racial identities in modern Britain. Henry and Edwards’ performances truly shine in this powerful piece.

Alexandra x

In Search of a White Identity is available online via The Actors Centre website until Sunday December 6th.

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