In Search of a White Identity at The Actors Centre
In Search of a White Identity, written by Cliffordkuju Henry, explores the complexities of race and class in Britain. By forcing two opposing sides to confront one another in a small space, the production works through the ways in which oppression takes form, as well as the divisive claim to identity that creates barriers to understanding. The undeniable tension that weaves through the short play is a powerful tool for questioning a political system that continues to apply age-old tactics of “divide and conquer”, especially where problems of immigration are used as a scapegoat for lingering socio-economic problems.
Two men, Patrick (Henry) and Mickey (Drew Edwards), one black and one white, are locked in the same police cell after being arrested at a protest. They were on opposing sides but, through the coincidence of being in the same cell, they recognise each other from childhood. However, despite similar social conditions growing up in pre-gentrified Hackney, their lives took very different trajectories. As they share their stories, they come to realise the common causes and shared patterns of their struggles.
With limited set design and movement – both constrained by the cell – the play, directed by Victoria Evaristo, highlights the feelings of confinement that arise from a failure to be heard. Mickey’s anger and Patrick’s perpetual fear represent two sides of the same coin. The police cell also highlights that the two men are dealt an equally unfavourable hand amid a legal system that incriminates them for their race and class.
In Search of a White Identity was originally part of The Actors Centre’s Working Class season, curated by Actor Awareness in 2019. The stream of the re-visioned production is confusing – it appears to be experimental, but is not free-flowing. Though the idea of containing conflicting ideologies to gain a common understanding is exciting in theatrical works of this kind, this play is dull and lacks the necessary life to make it relatable, let alone entertaining.
In Search of a White Identity is at The Actors Centre from 27th November until 6th December 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.