Leading a drive to bring new British Black stories to performance, Eclipse Theatre’s Revolution Mix, is off to a fine start with Black Men Walking. Mixing theatre with poetry, myth, song and storytelling, this starts off as a fairly simple tale that develops into a deeper look at Black history in the UK, perceptions, and the devastating impact of casual racism.
The scene is set with a hint of myth as a mysterious woman oversees the arrival of the three walkers. There is poetry in the text that leads us into the tale of walking. What jars somewhat is that the movement of each walker is slightly out of step: it is unclear whether this is deliberate to show the differences between Thomas, Matthew and Richard, or if it is simply that the poetry at that moment cries out for a complementary action. “We Walk!” becomes a battle cry as each tries to escape from their own complicated situations.
With humour spread throughout in decent measure, and a script punctuated with cracking one-liners, it would be easy to see this as merely a light-hearted look at male bonding. However, this would underestimate the journey that the story takes, as a young woman appears, Ayeesha, who challenges the perceptions of the group. The cast complement each other well, which makes the storytelling seem almost effortless.
The walking itself is an element of the production where it feels more development could enhance the meaning, perhaps to accompany the rhythm of the text. Nonetheless, the path the play takes is one that highlights the power listening to each other can bring. Writer Testament achieves a thought-provoking tale, with an ending that is simultaneously heart breaking and uplifting.
Times: Friday 20 – Saturday 21 September @ 7.30pm; Saturday 21 September @ 2.30pm, then Perth Theatre, 25 – 28 September; Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, 13 November; on tour until 16 November.