846 at Theatre Royal Stratford East Online
Acclaimed playwright Roy Williams brings together an impressive variety of artistic responses to the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement. 846 is a collection of short stories by 14 writers with very different styles and techniques which shed light on the underlying racism that continues to pervade British society. Presented in three episodes, the audio play explores individual experiences of racism; the role of the police in maintaining the oppression of black and ethnic minority communities; and the effects of racism on mental health.
Directed by Ola Ince with sound design by Donato Wharton, 846 is a calligraphic collage of words, tones, textures, movements and feelings that unite a powerful range of voices, giving nuance to the unique ways in which racism can be experienced and responded to by people of colour. The first episode begins with Roy Williams’s 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds, performed by Elijah Ansah, which illustrates the sinister way in which the construct of racial superiority is passed down from parent to child.
In the second episode, Avril E Russell’s Cop, performed by Cherrelle Skeete, dramatises violent encounters between the police force and black teenagers, portraying the misguided – but nonetheless desperate – hope of black police officers. Meanwhile, Sumerah Srivastav’s Say Their Names, performed by Will Edgerton, lists the killings of people of colour by British law enforcement.
The final episode begins on a funny note with Nathan Powell’s Suck Your Mum, performed by Kevin Harvey, which narrates the story of a black man who is in lockdown with his white wife and their child in his in-laws’ house. The protagonist struggles to speak to his white father-in-law about racism, despite the latter’s effort to research blackness and black culture. In an unexpected turn of events that becomes quite comical, the father-in-law is forced to confront the reality that there are “some things the slavery museum can’t teach you!”.
The highlight of the series is Clint Dyer’s chilling short story Triggered, with a captivating performance by Dyer that is bound to raise the hair at the back of the neck. This audio play takes listeners into the headspace of a young black man pushed to the edge as he utters his final words, carving onto the stone of the racial divide a hope against the odds: “Is there a ghetto in heaven… for me… but please, God, not a police force! Please! Please!”.
846 Live can be accessed on the Theatre Royal Stratford East website. It will be adapted and performed live as part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival on 12th September 2020, and tickets will be available from 6th August 2020. For further information visit the festival’s website here.