Search

What Shadows, Park Theatre, review: ‘Powerful polemic brings up difficult dilemmas’

PUBLISHED: 14:20 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:21 09 October 2017

Ian McDiarmid plays Enoch Powell in What Shadows. Picture: MIHAELA BODLOVIC

Ian McDiarmid plays Enoch Powell in What Shadows. Picture: MIHAELA BODLOVIC

Archant

“You can only despise your own voters for so long. They will judge you as you judge them, measure for measure.”

It’s nearly 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered the infamous Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative Association meeting in Birmingham.

Often misquoted, the full text of the speech is the centrepiece of this astonishing transfer from Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Powell is played with uncanny and sympathetic naturalism by Ian McDiarmid and his committed, vowel strangled, almost grotesque, delivery reminds us that the speech still has the power to shock.

What Shadows is much more than a re-examination of the 60s colour bar, race relations and racialism. It is a sometimes brutal questioning of what we mean by identity – the identity of an individual, the identity of a race and nation and how we grant admission to outsiders seeking to enter.

The opening scene is strange: a middle-aged woman (Joanna Pearce who also gives fine account as Enoch’s wife) is mending lobster pots. She is joined by Rose Cruickshank (impressively played by Amelia Donkor). They know each other through academia – the former’s career wrecked by the latter’s accusations of racism. They agree to resolve their issues by research – an examination of racism through the medium of Enoch Powell.

This powerful polemic take us to some dark places, difficult dilemmas and bitter exchanges. Does rueing a lost neighbourhood make a person racist? Can a black person be a racist? Do we discover or create who we are?

There are echoes here of the Brexit referendum as a vote against the political establishment: in a chilling moment of insight Powell says: “You can only despise your own voters for so long. They will judge you as you judge them, measure for measure.”

Playwright Chris Hannan’s work takes no sides but exposes the contradictions and confusions of liberalism as falling far short of the certainly most of us crave.

The staging and performances were wonderful: Ameet Chana’s salty, pragmatic Sultan a brilliant pairing with Paula Wilcox’s tragic-comic Grace, and Nicholas le Prevost perfect as journalist Clem Jones.

Four stars

Latest Hackney Stories

Yesterday, 18:27

An unbeaten half-century from James Harris saw visitors Middlesex complete an outstanding recovery to beat Leicestershire by one wicket in a marvellously tense finish to their Specsavers Division Two county championship match at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.

Yesterday, 17:28

Belgium and Tunisia have met on three previous occasions in all competitions, with a win apiece and a draw. The encounters have been tight affairs, with victories decided by one-goal margins, but today’s match didn’t follow the same trend.

Yesterday, 12:00

Gareth Southgate’s promising young England side look ready to make a mark on the world stage and help atone for the disappointments of recent tournaments.

Yesterday, 08:30

The drama surrounding the threat to Gillett Square continues apace with over 1,500 new signatories in the past month to the Change.org petition to Save Gillett Square, writes Adam Hart FRSA, chief executive officer Hackney Co-operative Developments (HCD) 1996-2012, co-director Vortex Foundation, resident and parent for over 35 years.

The temperature nudged the mercury towards nearly 30c as the man sat down on a bench, sited between Grace Road’s evocative pavilion and the sight screen.

Middlesex ended day three of their County Championship match at Grace Road on 82-3, 299 runs adrift with only seven wickets remaining.

Fri, 16:33

Brazil and Costa Rica were winless in their opening matches at the World Cup and were both hoping for their first victory of the tournament at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Middlesex bowled Leicestershire out for 186 in their second innings on a baking hot afternoon at Grace Road, to leave the visitors facing a challenging target of 381 to win.

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.



Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists