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Stuart King

Review: UNTIL THE FLOOD at The Arcola Theatre

Until The Flood After a hugely successful double award winning run at Edinburgh, Dael Orlandersmith brings her extraordinary exposé of racial tensions to London for a limited run at the Arcola.

Ferguson, St Louis, Missouri 2014: A nervous young white cop Darren Wilson, guns down a black teenager Michael Brown. For a nation which had become inured to such events, perhaps surprisingly, the ensuing outcry triggered a global backlash and spawned much of the Black Lives Matter movement. But why was this specific incident so inflammatory and why did it hold such power to incite anger, demands for a reckoning and above all, justice?

Racial issues and opinions are explored through verbatim testimonials of those who live and work in the shadow of the shooting. Each is sensitively brought to life during the performance by Ms Orlandersmith — who cuts a matronly, no-nonsense figure, yet manages to convey male and female, old and young with equal skill and subtlety. The overall result is gentle, enlightening, sometimes harrowing and profoundly moving. From the angry youths to the more reflective observations of community seniors, (and even those of a man with white suprematist leanings), through their stories each lends weight to the demand for a fundamental re-evaluation of racial relations in America, and indeed the world.

Neel Keller directs the piece with minimal fuss, allowing the tales to flow easily on a set by Takeshi Kata which is essentially composed of projections to a back wall and a chair placed at the centre of a sea of soft toys, candles and memorium placards, which have become too common a sight in the aftermath of such shootings, as communities come together to mourn their loss.