Writer: Lorraine Hansberry
Director: Dawn Walton
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
Set in Chicago in the late 1950s, Lorraine Hansberry’s thought provoking, iconic play A Raisin in the Sun is an intense and fiery script which gives the audience a glimpse of family life for the black community of the Windy City just before the Civil Rights Movement came into force.
In the cramped apartment of the Younger family, five family members struggle to keep their cool as the cracks start to show, not only in the walls of their apartment, but in their familial relationships too. When Mama inherits some money which has the potential to change their lives, they must consider the best way to use the money to their own advantage.
Eclipse Theatre Company’s production gives a real sense of the pressure cooker that the Younger’s apartment has become. Dawn Walton’s direction has drawn the volatile emotions that are ever present in Hansberry’s blistering text in a highly realistic and emotive interpretation of her work. The cast are excellent and create wonderful sense of the turmoil within the family environment, each trying to follow their own passions and dreams, in most cases at some expense to the ones they love.
This production is full of passionate performances. Ashley Zhangazha as Walter Lee embodies the feeling of futility that makes Walter such an irate and wrathful man, while at the same time showing the humanity of the character and the impact that hope and confidence can have on a desperate man. Angela Wynter plays Lena Younger, AKA Mama, the matriarch of the family with pride and gravitas. The balance of kindness and stern authority in her portrayal of Mama helps the audience to realise that it is partly Mama’s presence that has helped to hold the family together for all of this time.
Amanda Stoodley’s functional, realistic set design works in harmony with Aideen Malone’s lighting design to create the feeling of a family apartment that feels like a powder keg, ready to blow. The functional nature of the set is used beautifully through Walton’s direction, drawing the audience into the apartment as they watch, like a fly on the wall, as the families cramped existence is played out in front of them.
Watching this production, it is easy to see how revolutionary the play was when first produced in 1959. It was the first play on Broadway to be written by a black woman and directed by a black director as well as being one of the first plays to introduce details of black life to the largely white, middle class Broadway audience. Despite watching this play in a theatre in a multi-cultural city in a world where we have taken huge steps away from the racism that seeped through the US in the 50s and 60s, it is not difficult to see how hard hitting the play would have been to its first audience in 1959.
Runs until 5th March | Photo: Johan Persson