Review: In The Red And Brown Water

By John Nathan, October 23, 2008
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The Young Vic, London SE1

Last year young American Tarell Alvin McCraney made an astounding Young Vic debut with The Brothers Size, his lyrical sibling play set in Louisiana.

McCraney uses Nigerian Yoruba traditions to tell American stories. His latest offering, which is in fact the prequel to the The Brothers Size, depicts Louisiana's post-Hurricane Katrina floodplain by turning the Young Vic's main auditorium into what looks like a circular swimming pool. Yet when, in Walter Meierjohann's beautifully performed and bravely staged production, the cast splash into their performances, the water is revealed to be only ankle-deep.

The focus here is on Oya (Ony Uhiara) an athlete who refuses a scholarship from the state university to stay with her ill mother. It is a decision that keeps her locked into the poverty that traps an entire community, where having a baby is the only alternative to doing nothing. And so Oya is left desolate when neither Ashley Walter's swaggering Shango and Javone Prince's homely Ogun manage to impregnate her.

Much of what made The Brothers Size so triumphant is present here, notably the wit and affection that is becoming McCraney's trademark, and that the cast speak their own stage directions, which gives the sense of a story being told as well as acted.

Following an encouraging first act, the plotting fizzles out in the second act. Still, McCraney, who has been adopted by the RSC as its international playwright in residence, is clearly fulfilling the promise of a huge talent.

(Tel: 020 7922 2922)

    Last updated: 10:34am, October 23 2008