BWW Review: RED DUST ROAD, Lyceum, Edinburgh
Red Dust Road is a new production from The National Theatre of Scotland that is being staged as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name it tells the story of poet Jackie Kay.
Kay was born to a white Scottish mother from Nairn and a Nigerian father. It was a bit of a scandal at the time- not least because she was born out of wedlock- and Kay was put up for adoption. Adopted by a white couple from Glasgow, the play follows her journey from growing up mixed-race in a not particularly tolerant time to trying to trace her birth parents.
The timeline hops back and forth, opening with Kay meeting her birth father in Africa and then going back to her childhood in Glasgow. Elaine C Smith excels as Jackie's adoptive mother and balances the comedy and drama of the role well. Sasha Frost is perfectly watchable as Kay herself, though somewhat muted as I imagined the character to have a little more fire.
Tanika Gupta's adaptation of Red Dust Road seems to be lacking in poetry which is a bit of a missed opportunity given its subject. It's an interesting story but this production just seems to be missing its spark. It goes through the motions and gets the job done but with little emotional impact.
There are some interesting themes about what builds you as a person- whether it be nature or nurture but it feels as though they're never fully explored. It's a reasonable play but a little disappointing considering how rich the source material is.
Photo credit: Richard Davenport