Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London
Debbie tucker green reaches parts other writers can’t. She cuts to the chase in a way that is like a scythe or a scalpel cutting through skin. It’s clean, swift and it hurts in the sense of a cut bringing you up short with reality and truth. And she has a piercing sense of injustice.
hang speaks to us directly of some criminal act so appalling its perpetrator is to be done to death. In a room quivering under strip-lighting – at some points even the lighting seems to lose its balance and collapse into a watery facsimile of itself – Marianne Jean-Baptiste takes on the role of the perpetrator’s victim.
She stands, the very picture of stubborn dejection in a nondescript coat before Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza’s well meaning but hopeless prison officials. Their discomfort, conveyed by tucker green’s avalanche of redundant gabbled questions and reactions, is matched by Jean-Baptiste’s sullen reserve. It’s a crucible of anxieties; of officials attempting to make palatable an unspeakable situation; a victim whose anger blocks any attempt at a softening or personal interaction.
tucker green’s anonymous characters – there are no names – imbues hang with a wider metaphorical sense. Three’s visit specifically is about giving her decision as to how she wants the perpetrator to be put to death. But tucker green’s real focus is a racial injustice so big and so broad that Three’s individual fury stands for a whole people. And the indictment of an obfuscating, illogical, dehumanising justice system.
The personal was ever political. And so it is here. Jean-Baptiste’s Three carries the weight and sorrow of a Doreen Lawrence as she describes the destruction of a marriage, a family, its life and its hope by a single unspecified act of violence.
There is no one who can create atmosphere in so few words as tucker green with her staccato yet poetically framed lines.
Tautly directed here by the author, Rushbrook and Zaza play their part in 70 minutes that puts not just a Kafkaesque criminal system on trial but racial discrimination from institutionalised to the personal by way of tapping into a universal frustration with pettifogging officialdom.
hang is at the Royal Court Theatre to July 18, 2015
First published in Reviewsgate June 2015