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In the Red and Brown Water review at Young Vic London

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This second of African-American Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister plays follows last year’s success, The Brothers Size, now revived in the Young Vic’s studio. Like that play it draws on Yoruba myths to investigate family ties. Played out in a freshly-drawn chalk circle, The Brothers Size was as lyrical and compact as a sonnet. Its companion piece, also set in “Louisiana, a distant present”, has a similar intense poetry, but is looser in structure.

Oya – played by Ony Uhiara, both spirited and achingly touching – gives up her dream of athletic stardom when her mother becomes terminally ill. McCraney seems less interested in the lost career than Oya’s Yerma-like desperation to have a child. Her lovers are Ogun (Javone Prince), the dependable Size brother, and sharp, sexy Shango (Ashley Walters).

Characters speak their stage directions – a technique which both distances and focuses attention – and splash about in several inches of water in a radically reconfigured auditorium. Less successful than the magical chalk circle, this nevertheless contributes, with Jean Kalman’s clever lighting, to the dream-like atmosphere of the final tragedy.

Abram Wilson’s jazzy trumpet, perky or soulful, supports an exemplary ensemble which includes Cecilia Noble as comic Aunt Elegua and John MacMillan’s child-father Elegba, constantly identifying himself with the moon.

With his Royal Court debut pending, McCraney is, at 28, already an established talent.

Production Information

Young Vic, London, October 2-November 8

Tarell Alvin McCraney
Walter Meierjohann
Young Vic
Cast includes
Ony Uhiara, Javone Prince, Ashley Walters, Adjoa Andoh, Cecilia Noble, John MacMillan, Abram Wilson
Running time
1hr 50mins

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