Typical at Soho Theatre
The only way to describe Typical is “heart wrenching”. In 60 minutes, writer Ryan Calais Cameron puts a spring in the viewer’s step, only to pull the rug out from beneath us and leave us broken and in dumb shock. In this one-man play, based on real events, we see a poetic reconstruction of a day in the life of Christopher Ibikunle Alder, who was killed brutally in 1998 in a series of hate crimes and systemically racist events. Richard Blackwood stars in this whirlwind masterpiece of in-yer-face theatre, streamed on demand from Soho Theatre, London.
It is difficult to know how to write a review whilst reeling from a metaphorical blow to the head. Cameron’s script deals with physical violence and leaves an emotional, if not physical, impact on its audience. The rhythm of the language, delivered at bullet speed by Richard Blackwood, has a force and aggression that digs deep in the veins of both the performer and listener. Blackwood’s rap background shines through with the actor’s natural, laid-back vitality.
There are some iconic moments in director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour’s production, but what stands out is the restraint that both the script and direction bring out in the one-man cast. Blackwood narrates encounters that are infuriating, frightening and awful, yet the character’s response is always “don’t respond”, “keep calm”, “don’t give them any cannon fodder”. It is a show of constant and consistent peaceful protest in the face of societal abuse. This, more than any other aspect of the play, is both inspirational and incredibly painful.
However, the piece has an element of cruelty towards the spectators. We see the character go through intense and prolonged suffering, particularly towards the end. It certainly provokes a reaction and that is the beauty of political theatre. But it would be good to give the viewer air for breath. From the beginning, there is a constant tension in Blackwood’s performance – such as his little nervous laugh throughout – which could be softened a little both in the script and the acting.
This piece is not your typical night out (or in) at the theatre. Osei-Kuffour has produced a hurricane of a 60-minute one-man show and Blackwood holds the crowd admirably. This is a highly recommended and important watch. For anyone familiar with black poet and playwright debbie tucker green, Typical could be seen as a response to Random.
Typical is at Soho Theatre from 24th February 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a Typical for the show here: