Following rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, writer Ryan Calais Cameron’s new play Typical makes its London debut at the Soho Theatre, starring Richard Blackwood as the sole actor.
The alarm goes off and Blackwood’s unnamed character springs to life to the sounds of Shabba Ranks’ Ting-A-Ling. He’s singing and dancing, creating an instant rapport with the audience, who are cleverly transported back to the 90s with a lively soundtrack of MC Hammer, Shy FX and the Spice Girls.
The production is mind-blowing
It’s a typical Saturday and making the most of his child-free weekend (he’s a divorced dad of two), the plan is to meet the lads for some drinks, go clubbing and hopefully meet a woman whom he won’t scare away with his awkward chat up lines.
However as the monologue progresses, we discover the ex-serviceman – who’s proudly fought for his country – has returned home to find new battles in a society fighting against him. Navigating life as a black man has its challenges but he’s learned not to react to casual racism.
Anastasia Osei-Kuffour’s hour-long production suddenly takes a dark turn when the protagonist finds himself in police custody, despite being the victim of an earlier racist attack. His crime? He dared to talk to a friendly white woman in a club and escort her to the taxi rank.
The words “No phone calls. No love. No dignity” hang heavy in the air.
As he trails off singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, the lights fade as the audience are shown real CCTV footage from the incident that inspired the play. The victim is Christopher Alder, the decorated paratrooper who was left dying on the floor of a Hull police station in 1998. It’s a hard watch but nothing compared to the horrendous chain of events that led to his untimely death.
Blackwood delivers a powerful performance, brilliantly navigating the audience through the emotive one-man show
The production is mind-blowing. Blackwood, best known for his comedy roots and recent EastEnders stint, delivers a powerful performance, brilliantly navigating the audience through the emotive one-man show. There’s nowhere to hide on the minimalist stage, as the intense bright lights showcase his excitement, fear and vulnerability, but this doesn’t faze Blackwood in the slightest.
Impossible to leave without feeling emotionally winded, perhaps the real tragedy of the piece is it seems just as relevant today as it did 21 years ago.