The Long Road South at the HopeCultureTheatre
It’s the mid 1960s in suburban Midwest America, and while Andre and Grace, the Price family’s “coloured help”, spend the sweltering summer raking lawns and polishing silver, the African-American Civil Rights Movement is bubbling furiously away in the South. Tonight the pair will set off on the 800 mile journey to Alabama to be reunited with Andre’s estranged daughter and take part in the social movements that will shape their futures. Set to scupper their plans are the Prices, including imperious Jack, his inebriated wife, Carol Ann, and their puerile teenage daughter, Ivy.
Part of the Hope Theatre’s HopeFull Festival, in conjunction with The So and So Arts Club, The Long Road South is one of four plays showcasing new voices by championing emerging playwrights. Writer Paul Minx, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, captures both domestic and public action with simmering tension and stirring intensity. High drama and explosive language depict a crumbling domestic sphere ravaged by Jack’s vicious, dictatorial behaviour, Carol Ann’s alcohol-fuelled rages as she laments the inadequacies of her disabled son Ben, now trapped in a care home, and Ivy’s wild fantasies over Andre as she contends with her burgeoning sexuality. With a script peppered with plosive Old Testament phrases and quotes from black activist James Baldwin, director Jake Murray shapes the play into tempestuous climaxes and bristling lulls, charged with emotional and political angst.
Vanessa Mayfield adopts the role of impudent, brazen teenager very well; her naïve flirtations with Andre are cringingly convincing, although at points her quavering accent does become distracting. Victor Power’s Andre adroitly oscillates between amiable mentor, stoic workman and inflamed preacher with ease. Michael Brandon excels as the odious, overbearing Jake, adding a dose of energy to the proceedings with each steely glare and raucous shout, while Felicity Dean’s Carol Ann marks the play’s standout performance as she quakes about the stage in sliver heels, brimming with morose longing.
At times it feels that Minx has too much to say. The charged mix of religious fervour, familial drama and racial tension become overwhelming and it seems undecided as to whether The Long Road South is a piece exploring race or domestic power struggles. That said, it is an arresting, potent watch with a lot of bold statements to make.
The Long Road South is on at the Hope Theatre from 1st August until 30th August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.