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Shebeen

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Mufaro Makubika’s first main-stage play, Shebeen won the 2017 Alfred Fagon Award for best new work by a black British playwright, in advance of production. He’s a fine writer and a Nottingham man, but the riches are packed into its short and brilliant second half and it can sometimes feel like a work in progress.

Set in the St Ann’s area of Nottingham on the eve of the city’s 1958 race riots, it’s about a Caribbean couple, Pearl and George, who operate an illegal bar (a ‘shebeen’) from their terraced house. It’s a gathering place for their community, and the long first half portrays a laid-back party at which the audience is like an eavesdropper on scattered conversation.

Ugliness and brutality break in and there’s a theatrical tour de force as elements of the set disintegrate. A policeman hurls a racial insult that gets a collective intake of breath.

Martina Laird as Pearl and Karl Collins as George give beautifully rounded performances. They are complex characters and there’s a particularly tender moment when he massages her bare feet.

But the highlight of the play is a confrontation between Pearl and the mother of Mary (Chloe Harris), a white girl in love with a black man. The deeply rooted prejudice it exposes is more damaging than the bricks thrown in the riots.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on June 6 to remove references to behaviour of other audience members during this production.


Related to this Review

Playwright Mufaro Makubika wins 2017 Alfred Fagon AwardPlaywright Mufaro Makubika wins 2017 Alfred Fagon Award

Production Details
Production nameShebeen
VenueNottingham Playhouse
LocationNottingham
StartsJune 1-16, 2018
EndsJune 16, then at Theatre Royal Stratford East, June 20-July 7, 2018
Running time2hrs 15mins
AuthorMufaro Makubika
ComposerRichard Hammarton
DramaturgKirsty Patrick Ward
DirectorMatthew Xia
ChoreographerRachael Nanyonjo
Fight directorKev Mccurdy
Set designerGrace Smart
Costume designerGrace Smart
Lighting designerCiaran Cunningham
Sound designerRichard Hammarton
Casting directorSarah Bird, Sophie Parrott
CastMartina Laird, Adam Rojko Vega, Chloe Harris, Danielle Walters, Hazel Ellerby, Karl Collins, Karl Haynes, Rolan Bell, Theo Solomon
TechnicalHazel Holder
Company stage managerJane Eliot-Webb
Stage managerEleanor Richards, Vickki Maiden
ProducerNottinghamhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East
VerdictFine production of a significant and authentic play that is also flawed in its construction
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