State Red*** (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs)

Posted: November 25, 2014 in Theatre

state redWith the London riots of 2011 still fresh in the mind and more recent events in St Louis and Cleveland hitting our headlines, Atiha Sen Gupta’s new play could hardly be more topical in asking the question why the victims of police shootings always seem to be black. Gupta sets her play when Luke (Samuel Anderson) is stricken with guilt having shot a black teenager a year earlier when attending a crime scene with his fellow officer Matthew (Toby Wharton). Luke is the son of the inter-racial marriage of Richard (Geoff Leesley), a pillar of the police establishment, and Joyce (Maxine Finch). This is an issues driven play in which the characters, who are little more than mouthpieces for the writer’s arguments and counter arguments, never really connect in an emotional sense either with each other or with the audience. Gupta goes out of her way (perhaps too far) to demonstrate that the lines between right and wrong are blurred; the mixed race officer who pulled the trigger is from a privileged middle class background, whilst his white colleague grew up in poverty in Tottenham; the senior police officer whose career could be ended if the truth about institutional racism is exposed, could in fact drive for reform if allowed to continue in his job. Yes, it is all just a little bit too contrived and some of Gupta’s arguments lose clarity and potency for that reason, but the four actors perform it with conviction under the taut direction of Douglas Rintoul and it adds up to a gripping 70 minutes.

Performance date: 24 November 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.