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Typical @ Soho Theatre (Play Review) Typical @ Soho Theatre (Play Review)
Typical @ Soho Theatre (Play Review)

Misconceptions and prejudices manufactured and disseminated through various channels such as the media have often portrayed the Black man as aggressive and given to violence.  Slightly below,  his female counterpart is viewed as ‘angry’ or ‘’strong’ which are in reality only kinder ways of saying aggressive. The effect of this pervasive sentiment on Black men as they go through there everyday lives is what this play examines.


Based on a true story we follow with military precision beginning at 16.45 hours an evening in the life our ex-serviceman who has spent his life fighting for his country now has to contend with racist violence, brutality and a myriad of other forces in a society that has scant regard for him or his aspirations.


We follow his hilarious antics as he prepares for a night out the lads only to be disappointed by their no-show. Undeterred and determined to have a great night and to get away from the solitude of his tiny flat out he ventures firstly to a bar and finally to a club after running the usual gauntlet of racist bouncers.


At first unsuccessful, he finally captures the attention of a young lady only to have his glee tested through the expected encounter with a trio of bigoted clubber envious of romantic success. Resolute in not to have his night ruined,  he leaves only to encounter them again on the outside.


An inevitable fight ensues resulting in our brave paratrooper waking up dazed and confused in hospital from a severe blow to the back of the head. Becoming increasingly angry at not having the extent of his injury taken seriously,  he’s immediately deemed without justification as aggressive and uncontrollable resulting in the inevitable outcome of the police being called.


After a severe and unprovoked beating in the police van, the action cuts to a grainy film footage of a man lying on the station floor with officers idly standing idly viewing the unfolding situation with contempt and with total unconcern about his worsening condition, convinced that he’s faking for sympathy and possible release.


When we hear the desk sergeant’s spine chilling words ‘Best call an ambulance lads’ the whole audience with a heavy heart they are witnessing the final moments his life. Christopher Alder, the focus died while in police custody at Queen’s Gardens Police Station, Kingston upon Hull in April 1998.


Richard Blackwood is spellbinding as he takes us through the paratrooper’s ill-fated night out. Charismatic, funny and instantly likable, displaying his vocal dexterity as he voices a variety of characters we are drawn to his huge sometimes outrageous but never over the top performance evidence of his stand up comedy roots.


His sketches about preparation for his solo visit to the nightclub is comical and the awkwardness he displays whilst chatting up a white clubber is an agonising but truly hilarious watch.


His performance simultaneously exuding charm and perceptiveness as he reveals the inner and outer struggles many black men encounter in their daily lives.


The way he commands the stage not only with his physicality but also with the ability to instantly switch emotions to reveal the sensitive nature vulnerable nature of the man as he struggles to deal with situations outside his control was a fascinating watch.


Ryan Calais Cameron (winner of the 2018 Edinburgh Stage Award) writing is sharp and observant, penetrating deftly to the core subjects of racism and police brutality through the constant use of the word ‘typical’ throughout. However, by interspersing soul, dancehall and funk lyrics into the monologue, he cleverly manages to inject humour and hilarity into what would otherwise have been a sad and mournful play.


From flashing disco lights to subdued moody darkness, lighting designer Sorcha Stott-Strzala intelligently captures not only the moods of the nightclub and wine bar but also the darker and starker aspects of this one man play.


Typical is a sharp reminder if needed. that police brutality, institutional and casual racism and violence are still endemic in Britain despite some commentators and certain corners of social media belief to the contrary. With the sceptre of Brexit still looming large there seems little hope for change in the immediate future.


Typical, Till 28 Sept, Soho Theatre, Dean St, London W1D 3NE, 7.15pm Tickets and details https://sohotheatre.com/shows/typical/ 

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