Originally part of The Actors Centre’s Working Class Season, curated by Actor Awareness in 2019, In Search of a White Identity has been reimagined following the Covid-19 pandemic and is part of the Centre’s new season of on-demand theatre.
Written by Cliffordkuju Henry, In Search of a White Identity stars Henry and Drew Edwards as Patrick and Mickey. The pair grew up together but went their separate ways, and now as adults they reunite in a police cell, having both been arrested on a march which turned violent.
With strong direction from Victoria Evaristo, the production is a compelling two-hander about class, racism and masculinity. It’s incredibly relevant given the Black Lives Matter marches and counter protests earlier this year. Mickey, who has been arrested for affray, is a white man, frustrated about a lack of local housing opportunities for his children, blaming the situation on immigration; while Patrick, who has been detained for threatening behaviour, has been marching for equal opportunities, and is tired of having to deal with racism. Both men truly believe in what they were marching for, and as they sit and wait to learn their fate they try to understand one another’s argument. As they discuss matters close to their heart, including their upbringing, the struggles they’ve faced and how they both feel isolated in the place they call home, it’s soon apparent that they’re not so different after all.
In Search of a White Identity blends the personal with the political to great effect, and raises some important points. Cliffordkuju Henry’s writing skilfully builds tension throughout, blending frequent outbursts with more emotive moments. The production has a lot to say and if anything it could do with a longer running time to fully explore the ideas it raises. With a running time of just 30 minutes the ending in particular feels somewhat rushed and definitely leaves the audience wanting more.
The two actors both give excellent performances and complement each other well. Drew Edwards is great as the angry, outspoken man who doesn’t hold back in his outbursts, trying to qualify generalisations with statements like ‘it’s nothing personal’. Meanwhile Cliffordkuju Henry is a much more calmer presence, though Patrick is no less angry about the current status quo and everything he’s had to endure.
In Search of a White Identity is a play which shows a lot of a potential, and is much deserved of a full production in the future. This is a timely and thought-provoking play with strong performances from the two actors, and is certainly well worth a watch.
In Search of a White Identity is streaming until Sunday 6 December 2020.
Photo credit: courtesy of Joe Twigg