Trouble in Mind – Alice Childress
Directed by Laurence Boswell
Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress is a deeply thought provoking, satirical examination of racist attitudes in American Theatre in the midst of the race relation issues of the 50’s. Childress was the first African American woman to win an Obie (Best Original Off Broadway Production) for this play written at a time when racism was usually viewed from a white, male perspective which was often well meaning but more frequently oppressive and controlling.
Here we meet Wiletta Mayer a talented African-American actress who has spent a lifetime building a career in the theatre. Now she is on Broadway, rehearsing Chaos in Belleville, an anti-lynching play with a white director. As rehearsals progress, Wiletta finds it increasingly difficult to relate to the part she is playing and finds the pressure of yet another stereotype hard to bear.
Tanya Moodie is mesmerising as Wiletta, a strong presence whose realisation and emotional journey is breathtaking. Her increased honesty and defiance unravels the white director, Al Manners, played by Jonathan Cullen. His switching from best friend to furious egoist leaves all under a brutal latent threat, the challenge from Wiletta at times too much for him.
The entire cast are superb, the young Daniel Erza as John Nevins is a sharp new talent alongside the vibrantly sassy Kiza Deen (Millie Davis.)
The precise and intricate direction from Laurence Boswell creates a magic mix of ensemble acting. It is hard to know where to look as the rehearsals unfold before us. Patrick Walshe Mcbride (Eddie Fenton) as the much maligned stage manager is ever present in the action and hugely engaging.
This is an outstanding piece of theatre, even by the incredibly high standards that the Ustinov continually delivers. Tanya Moodie brings a stellar quality to this production that will linger in the memory. However, it is a vital piece of theatre that needs a voice. It is hard to imagine a production that could top this and the need for a transfer and a wider audience has rarely been greater.
***** 5 Stars