A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Eclipsed Theatre, Sheffield Theatres and Belgrade Theatre
Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun is nearly 60 years old and is set in 1950s Chicago against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and blatant racial prejudice.
It is a very good show where the script and the performances speak for themselves and it is great that this rarely performed play is currently on tour and its themes of poverty, money, ambition, power, racism and politics still resonate today".
The Younger family headed by matriarch Lena Younger aka Mama, together with her two children;daughter-in-law and grandson live in a slum apartment on Chicago’s south side, which is too small for their needs but prospects are looking up as Mama is awaiting a life insurance cheque for $10,000 following the death of her husband. The family is aware of how this money could dramatically transform their life chances but they are divided as to how best to spend the money. Mama (Angela Wynter) and her daughter-in law, Ruth (Alisha Bailey) want a bigger house for the family, whilst Walter Lee (Ashley Zhangazha) has ambitions of starting his own business so he can quit his stultifying job as a chauffeur and his sister, Beneatha (Susan Wokoma) hopes some of the money will be set aside for her medical school fees.
With so many competing demands, tensions erupt between the whole family – husband and wife, brother and sister and mother and offspring culminating in some uncomfortable truths.
Mama decides to put a down payment on a three bedroom house in a white neighbourhood with the express instruction to her son that the remainder of the money is shared with his sister. Unfortunately, once the neighbourhood association is made aware of their new neighbours the Chair of the Welcoming Committee calls round and is not so welcoming.
Whilst the themes addressed in the play are profound, the play is engaging and has a few comedic moments but overall it felt a little overlong and some of the scene changes were not seamless. However, it is a very good show where the script and the performances speak for themselves and it is great that this rarely performed play is currently on tour and its themes of poverty, money, ambition, power, racism and politics still resonate today – just think of the Oscars and the lack of nominations for black actors and the fact that Lorraine Hansberry was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway – how many others have followed in her footsteps? As Karl Lindner (Chair of the Welcoming Committee) remarked “you can’t force people to change their hearts son”.
Info: A Raisin in the Sun was at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry from 22 to 26 March 2016 | Visit Belgrade Theatre website | See Afridiziak e-newsletter
Susan Wokoma, A Raisin in the Sun- interview
A Raisin in the Sun tour listing