Thursday, 16 October 2014

'Rachel' Finborough Theatre ***

What an almighty moment it is as this month we are celebrating Black History Month, and the attractive Finborough Theatre presents us with Angelina Weld Grimke’s, ’Rachel’, and one found the performance was immensely enjoyable and increasingly poignant. ‘Rachel’ was first performed in America in 1916, and receives its European premiere, and is set within an apartment where we are familiarised with old clothes maker, Mrs Loving who lives with both her young children, Rachel and Tom. However, it appears that life has not treated them well whatsoever due to the enormous amounts of racist remarks they receive daily. Rachel who is eighteen has a real enthusiasm for life in the hope that their circumstances could improve, and with the aim that she will foster child who can live more tranquilly in a nation where there is no prejudice of any kind. Rachel's brother, Tom feels a humongous sense of disdain as he’s had a relatively noble education, but due to the colour of his skin he cannot obtain a well-paid job, and to make ends meet he becomes employed as a waiter. As well as, Tom believes that there will never be substantial progress in accepting people outside of their own race. Paradoxically, Rachel remains optimistic, and when she introduces Jimmy to her mother, she’s started by Mrs Loving’s hesitation towards him, as it seems there is an undisclosed story that both Rachel and Tom do not know. Gradually, Rachel's cheerfulness reduces massively when she learns that her foster son, Jimmy has received dreadful racial abuse from the older boys in his school, and each night he has continuous nightmares. Moreover, she experiences depression, and one found it unsettling when she terminates the bunch of roses that her admirer, John Strong has sent her. This allows us to witness her scornful representation of the world she's living in. Weld Grimke’s narrative is entrancing as we voyeuristically observe a society that cannot appreciate differences but I did find that two-an-a-half hours seemed to strain slightly. The performances by the company of ‘Rachel’ were comfortably characterised, but some of their enactments were too hurried as mistakes became noticeable. Adelayo Adedado is whimsical as the central protagonist, Rachel as she portrays a young woman who becomes hatred when she understands that both her son Jimmy, and herself are living in a cursed world due to the skin colour. Miquel Brown is abundant as Rachel's mother, Mrs Loving; especially when she attempts to be more accommodating with Jimmy's presence, and her domesticity is quite appealing to see when she is at the sewing machine. Zephryn Taitte is grand as Rachel's love interest, John Strong. One found he conveyed a somewhat positive approach to life, especially when we understand he's been decorating his uninhabited apartment in the hope that Rachel will join him, but this plan never materialises due to Rachel’s anxious nature. Ola Ince’s direction is delightful here as she's captured the paining of a family and acquaintances that realises their lives would never be as blissful as it should be. Unfortunately some aspects needed to be exceedingly fluid as props kept dropping on the floor, which lead led me to think that the rehearsal process needed more refinement. Alex Marker’s designs were particularly attractive here as we see the plunging world of Rachel’s depression, and it engrosses the early 20th century atmosphere with gay abandon where being unique in terms of skin colour etc. was fundamentally marginalised. Overall, the experience of ‘Rachel’ was enjoyable throughout despite some of the obvious faults. Still worth a visit one must advocate.

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