Fairview at the Young Vic
Fairview is theatre as guerilla warfare. A reminder of what the artform can do when allowed. It also should not be written about – in the sense that it would be a crime, deservedly punishable, to reveal any of its secrets. This article promises it’ll try not to let anything slip. But, just to be safe, open a new tab, book a ticket and return once you’ve seen it.
The other issue is that it shouldn’t really be reviewed by a white person. Which, as said white person assigned to review it, is more difficult to navigate.
The Frasiers could be the Banks. Or the Jeffersons. A middle-class black family in America, dealing with sitcom setbacks. Burnt cakes, sibling rivalries, delayed flights. Even the hints of other, deeper problems have a whiff of an after-school special.
Yet there’s more than that. So, so much more.
The show is about a life mediated by the white gaze, voices drowned out by white noise, space taken up by white bodies. Cultural appropriation and the stereotypes that can propagate once the source material has been stripped of all meaning, be it by right-wing “gotcha” guys or “well-meaning” liberals.
Then again, maybe it’s not quite that at all. Maybe even these attempts at capturing Fairview are nothing but a “loud guilt”. Trying to explain to someone, something, who they are in place of letting a better-suited person, a different voice, have that chance.
Nadia Latif has overseen a pin-point-precise production – alongside Tom Scutt’s wide-screen set and Xana’s superlative sound design – filled with necessarily physical and multi-layered performances. There is a wonderful, immediately present chemistry between Naana Agyei-Ampadu’s Jasmine, Nicola Hughes’s Beverly and Rhashan Stone’s Dayton that persists regardless of what is required from them. Matthew Needham is a constantly unsettling presence. And, wow, Donna Banya – most responsible for carrying the audience through the play’s mirror maze – is uniquely superb as the show’s heart, mind and soul.
On paper, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s writing is incredibly clever. On stage, it is something beyond, a thrilling piece of intellectual and visceral choreography that flips the table at the same time as turning it. It’ll leave you shaking.
Without question the play of the year.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Fairview is at the Young Vic from 28th November until 18th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.