It’s not an easy watch, this, especially by the time CCTV footage of Christopher Alder’s death is projected into the room in the play’s final minutes. Assaulted on a night out in 1998, then arrested by police, Alder was left to die on the floor of the police station while officers stepped over him and decided he was faking.
Although Ryan Calais Cameron’s poetic monologue is rooted in the facts of Alder’s story, it’s never made explicit that Richard Blackwood is playing Alder. Instead we get a gut-punching hour of spoken word, whose cheerful beginning is mirrored by a brutal end.
Blackwood gives a seriously good performance, whether drawing on his roots as a stand-up in the cheekier, lighter moments as he gets ready for his night out, or during the shocking climax when he is attacked and arrested. He combines considered delivery of Cameron’s poetry with jittery physicality, always talking to us directly, bringing us into his life.
A note from director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour argues for the inclusion of the CCTV footage, and its potency is undeniable. But there should be more forewarning if we’re going to be asked to watch a man die. It’s a small lapse in responsibility in an otherwise wrenching show.
It’s a piece that makes the blood boil, that makes you want to shout at the stage and the injustice, and the futility of Alder’s death.