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Review: WHITE NOISE, Bridge Theatre

At Bridge Theatre until November 13th

Review: WHITE NOISE, Bridge Theatre

Review: WHITE NOISE, Bridge Theatre Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Parks confronts the audience with big themes in her thrilling and radical play, which has received its European premiere at The Bridge Theatre. The writer describes this work as something that, "rips the face off of civilisation." And I'd agree that it certainly does. Taking an unflinching look at race in the 21st Century, from both a black and white perspective, this production is undeniably bold, but reflective of the place society finds itself in today.

Thirty-somethings Leo, Misha, Ralph and Dawn are the best of friends - being inseparable since college. Moving through the big smoke together, the quartet are liberal, open-minded and appear on face value, socially aware. They teeter around big topics delicately, not wishing to offend, always checking in to see if they get things 'right'. And they're all pretty successful; Dawn is a somewhat bight lawyer fighting for social justice, Misha has a hit online show, 'Ask a Black', and Ralph - who despite coming from money - has become a well-respected university lecturer.

I have missed someone out, and that's Leo; who could be a successful visual artist, if only he hadn't been removed from his gallery spot, due to the fact him not producing any art. Leo's other big problem is that he can't sleep. He never has been able to. And on top of this, and the event that's most pressing in Leo's life currently, is the recent occurrence where he was assaulted by the police in a racially motivated incident. The aftermath of this leads him to bring to his group an extreme proposition - to sign himself away to his white friend, becoming his property, so the police won't mess with him.

It's quite a prolific ask, but Parks' script teases this narrative out in a way that it all makes sense. Weaving surrealism with reality, we watch as the world descends slowly into chaos - the white man takes advantage of his new purchase and as an audience you watch in horror at the events that unfold. And even though it's ultimately undeniably bleak, Parks and Polly Findlay's production has many moments of humour littered throughout. The jokes land but are never lingered in for too long, and any warm moments are quickly combined with elements of trauma. Each character has their solo monologue moment, where in it they try to convince the audience of their pure intentions. It's a great alternative to the rest of the play's duologues.

As the four friends, the ensemble's connection is undeniable, and at the start we see them really embrace this symbiosis. The chemistry that oozes out of them is contagious, and Polly Findlay has directed some brilliant performances from the group. James Corrigan's is magnetic in his portrayal of the modern owner Ralf, and its in his scenes with psychologically damaged Leo, played superbly by Ken Nwosu, that you see the real tragedy of the piece. Nwosu has the ability to convey pain, pleasure and panic all in a singular line - it really is a brilliant portrayal of a man on the edge. Faith Omole's Misha is strong, direct and radiates power in her presence, and Helena Wilson brilliantly brings across Dawn's saviour complex.

White Noise is only the third play of Parks to receive a London production since 2003, and I hope to see many more, because she has the ability to craft plays that are packed with detail, nuance, clear intention, and imagination.

White Noise at The Bridge Theatre until 13 November

Photo: Johan Persson

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