A Kind of People at the Royal Court Theatre
A Kind of People was announced months ago. So long ago, in fact, that Theresa May was still Prime Minister (if only just). It is a quirk of fate, then, that the state of nation drama has a press night the evening before the UK’s latest general election, one that provides the starkest ideological choice in generations.
As ever the gang is together at Gary (Richie Campbell) and Nicky’s (Claire-Louise Cordwell), celebrating the birthday of dopey Mark (Thomas Coombes). Mo (Asif Khan) and Anjum (Manjinder Virk) are there, as is Gary’s sister Karen (Petra Letang). Yet the usual easy atmosphere is changed when Gary and Mark’s manager Victoria (Amy Morgan) walks through the door as well, unexpectedly popping over for a post-work outing. What transpires once drinks have been liberally poured ripples through the friendship group long after that night, gradually chipping away at the veneer of their relationships.
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play is lower-case political. In the sense that it is about the circumstances, assumptions and stereotypes that govern everyday life. It’s people repeatedly and consistently failing to appreciate the pressures and obstacles those around them are dealing with, be it because they are too blinded by their own struggles, or because of plain old bigotry.
It could be the rigged game of class that is the British education system, and the inordinate amount of strain it places on children and parents. Or the social cap that is still put on black people in the country, where decades and decades of institutionalised racism cut them off at the knees. It’s financial precarity and trying to find a way to avoid that same life for your kids. Or the weapon of a white woman’s tears.
In other words, it’s all very timely, unwilling to point the finger in any one direction in favour of something more difficult.
However, the play is also written with the bluntness of a steel pipe. Unnatural dialogue is presented as realism, designed to get a point across and nothing much else. It stands in the way of the natural chemistry between the cast, especially Campbell and Cordwell as husband and wife, and the underused Letang as the former’s straight-talking sibling. Kaur Bhatti also leads the narrative down some soapy and questionably shocking avenues that gun for extra drama when there’s already plenty to go around.
Inequality breeds resentment and division. Though that’s not the whole picture. Intolerance itself – encapsulated in the very fabric of something like, say, Tory policy – is often the very cause of that inequality.
Anyway, vote Labour.
Photos: Manuel Harlan
A Kind of People is at the Royal Court Theatre from 5th December until 18th January 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.