Trouble in Mind ★★★★★ National Theatre | Dec 2, 2021 - Jan 29, 2022


Alice Childress' play deserves all the accolades it receives. First produced in 1955, the drama continues to resonate with audiences because it deals honestly with the complex and controversial issue of race relations, presenting that subject in both a nuanced and forthright manner. Childress uses the metaphor of staging a play to explore how people on both sides of the racial divide disguise their reality and how that strategy only exacerbates the problems. This is the story of Wiletta Mayer, brilliantly portrayed by Tanya Moodie, and her discovery of her authentic voice. It is a journey that is ironically aided by her well-meaning, but obtuse director embodied by the excellent Rory Keenan. Indeed, all of the actors are extremely strong and each of them bring their A-game to this narrative about creating a play. However, we were particularly impressed by Cyril Nri's Sheldon. His ability to move his character from two dimensions to a complex and fully realised individual is brilliantly achieved, and he completely captures the arc of the work as set up by Nancy Medina's shrewd direction of the whole cast. The theme of changing from playing to being is beautifully mirrored in all the performances. As Childress seeks to move us beyond seeing and judging by surfaces, it is revealed that the task requires exposure of our truth and the recognition of others as individuals. A complex challenge thoughtfully presented. The National Theatre has given us an inspired production that honours an important work. It needs to be widely seen.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson.

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