Thursday, February 29

Typical – Soho Theatre On Demand

Having premiered at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 to sold out audiences, then transferring to Soho Theatre, ‘Typical’ has now taken on a hybrid digital form to begin an online season from the 24th February, on Soho Theatre’s On Demand platform.

Created by Nouveau Riche and Soho Theatre and written by Ryan Calais Cameron whose previous work includes Rhapsody, Retrograde and Queens of Sheba co-written with Jessica Hagan; Typical is based on a true story and tells of the life of Christopher Alder played by Richard Blackwood.

The play is set in the late 1990’s, and a selection of 90’s music, VHS tapes and Whigfield, help to transport us back to that era.  Alder is in his mid-thirties, an ex-paratrooper, and a British Nigerian.   We learn that he is divorced with two children and there is a feeling that he is trying to adjust to life as a single man, there is very little food in his fridge and he even manages to burn his toast.

Weekend has arrived and it’s time to chill out and spend some time with his mates, he’s looking forward to a night out.  After calling ‘the fellas’, they are all busy, so as he’s all dressed up, he decides to go it alone. 

After drinking at a bar and bumping into some old friends, he decides to go on to a nightclub alone.  After enjoying a bit of a boogie, he attracts the attention of a group of white men who take exception to him and this is where the trouble starts.

Without giving any more of the plot away, this is a deeply disturbing portrayal of how racial prejudice can escalate from a few hurtful jibes into something much more serious.  It’s a sad fact that even though we would like to think that Britain has solved it’s race discrimination issues, we have seen for ourselves only a few months ago, the outcry by certain right wing groups, when Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of London.

The staging and props were kept very simple but easily adaptable, so that Blackwood could move the multi-purpose black boxes around for the scene changes.  The lighting design (Paul Anderson), is cleverly done to move us between Alder’s flat and the night club with the neon strip-lighting surrounding the boxes, coupled with the 1990’s music (sound design by Gareth Fry), all come together to build a picture in our minds without having to create the images on set (set design by Zahra Mansouri).

Anastasia Osei-Kuffour takes the script and shapes a production that begins with the development of our understanding of Alder’s character and uses the camera close-ups to maximum effect at the end of the play.  Looking into Blackwood’s eyes and seeing the desperation, humility and loss of hope etched on his face is an uncomfortable experience, but so it should be!

Blackwood conveys his character’s inner most thoughts with warmth and humour and takes advantage of sections of the play that offer him a chance for rhythmic word play.  A wonderful performance sympathetically delivered.

This feels like an important piece of theatre.  The story is based on truth and stands face to face with the destructive nature of racism and asks you to never judge a person by their skin colour or to turn your back on its victims.

This play is available from 24th February 2021.  You can buy a ticket by following this link to Soho Theatre On Demand 

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 22nd February 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★