Friday, 9 September 2022

REVIEW: Yellowman at The Orange Tree Theatre

‘Yellowman’, written by Dael Orlandersmith, was first performed in London in 2004. Eighteen years later, Diane Page has brought this intense piece of work back on its feet, and created a very emotive, tender, and thought-provoking production.

The play follows the relationship between Alma (Nadine Higgin), a black woman whom is considered poor and from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ and Eugene (Aaron Anthony), a lighter-skinned man with a more privileged and wealthy upbringing. Both these characters experience racism and classicism within their community and society. It explores the prejudices experienced in the lives of those living in the poorest parts of South Carolina in the 1970s. This play also projects how these issues are rooted in the world at large.

The use of arena staging and minimalistic set creates a beautifully intense atmosphere which is very suiting to the themes of the play. This specific staging gives the actors a lot of creative freedom and room to create an immersive atmosphere and a personal relationship with the audience. Both these actors play a lot of their speeches and asides out towards the audience; drawing us into their stories, immersing us in their energies, as well as trusting the actors and feeling secure within the story. On the other hand, the more intense romantic scenes are played in towards each other which is equally as gripping. The audience are made to feel as though they are part of the same world and part of the same conversations as the characters. Diane Pages vision as a director is perfectly executed. The use of the orange coloured lighting, in combination with the darker blue colours, is a perfect nod to the premises of the story, thanks to Rajiv Pattani (Lighting Designer).

Orlandersmiths’ writing is a first-class example of the way in which comedy and hard topics can integrate and create quality material. Both Higgin and Anthony really lend themselves to the subtle humour in the text, especially when playing their character's younger selves. Even though it’s a piece performed by two actors, the distinction between all the different characters they play is very clear and easy to follow as an audience. The use of voice and accents is very impressive. A special mention to Aundrea Fudge (Dialect Coach): her work on the South Carolina accent and dialect is crucial in this piece as the different voices and vocabulary is necessary in distinguishing the character's different classes.

Both Higgin and Anthony control and command the stage with grace, accuracy and consistency. Their relationship on stage is beautiful to watch and they play the harder topics with the complexity, tenderness, and knowledge that this kind of material deserves.

For any theatre-goer who is looking to be mentally challenged and stimulated, then this is the type of honest and well-crafted theatre you should be watching.

‘Yellowman’ is on at The Orange Tree Theatre until the 8th of October 2022. From the 11th-14th of October, it will be available to stream on demand.

Review by Isabella Kirkpatrick

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: B14 | Price of Ticket: £34

Photography by Ali Wright

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