Writer and Director: debbie tucker green
Debbie tucker green has embraced the possibilities of hybrid theatre with her new film ear for eye staged in a theatrical space with minimal setting and a group of actors telling stories and performing scenes. Based on her own 2018 play which premiered at the Royal Court, exploring identity, racism and disproportionate police aggression, ear for eye is a fiercely stated piece of socio-political drama that would perhaps worked better on the stage.
It draws on films that have incorporated theatrical styles like Dogville where, in semi-Brechtian fashion, the viewer is asked to imagine the playing space, relying on the actors and the writer’s choice of language and construction to lay the scene and characters with minimal props or visual cues. It is an approach that is successful on screen to a point, and like Dogville, eventually the running time works against it and although only 90-minutes, it becomes harder to maintain a connection to the episodic structure as the piece unfolds.
There are scenes which play-out across the film, returning to the same characters when exploring allegiance and social expectation, masculinity and coming-of-age from different perspectives. Some of tucker green’s work is very abstract and conceptual which can be harder to unpick on screen away from a physical connection with the actors, the space and the bigger audience which occasionally flattens the effect of the work, making it an almost passive experience.
Some of the clearest themes explore interactions with the police, particularly for a young woman who is treated with the same suspicion and physical brutality as her male counterparts, describing in vivid detail the looping accusations of aggression and attitude levelled against her, unable to defend herself and based solely on the colour of her skin. It is a memorable segment that gives a rare insight into police behaviour towards women.
It’s a very strong cast and seeing them together is one of the joys of ear for eye. Danny Sapani – recently so brilliant in Hymn at the Almeida – Lashana Lynch who made a huge impact in No Time to Die, Tosin Cole and rising star Arinzé Kene now playing the lead in the Bob Marley musical Get Up, Stand Up.
Tucker green’s film has some visual effects and the location of each scenario changes from the central amphitheatre to other spaces to stage monologues, duologues and bigger group pieces that draw on culture, inheritance and community. But this is one piece of hybrid theatre it might be better to experience in person.
ear for eye is screening at the London Film Festival.