Race by David Mamet – Hampstead Theatre – Review

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Anyone that’s been reading TheatreThoughts.com for a while will know I’m a huge David Mamet fan, his plays and writings on theatre are one of my biggest influences. Few writers have got me thinking like Mamet.

So the chance to see a premier of his latest play was a must for me. In fact it’s the first play of his I’ve seen, having only seen film versions, read or listened to his other works. My first visit to The Hampstead was a pleasant affair, it’s a great theatrical space with helpful and friendly staff and I’ll definitely be returning as it produces some amazing work.

Race is Mamet writing at his frenetic and gripping best. We’re thrown into the legal world of the US and watch as a white man is accused of raping a black woman. The legal firm consists of a white and black partner with a black legal apprentice. Assumptions, prejudices and deep-seated beliefs are brought to light.

Whilst this is an issue based play, Mamet doesn’t ignore his own advice and ignore the plot (something far to many “issue” plays do). There is a strong plot that has you on the edge of your seat throughout as the schemes and twists of the case come out.

In some ways this being set in the US makes it easier to observe and pass judgement on the issues he presents. I know it caused a stir on Broadway. However the issues he brings up are not comfortable for us in the UK either (and equally as applicable) and do need addressing. Yet he frames them within strong characters and you’re torn between who is right and wrong.

A powerful quartet of actors

The cast of four (Jasper Britton, Charles Daish, Clarke Peters and Nina Toussaint-White) give dynamic performances, keeping the pace up and allowing the intensity to come through. Mamet’s usage of dialect and machine gun dialogue is not easy. Their timing and phrasing is spot on.

As my wife and I left the theatre for a stroll up to Hampstead Heath we were still talking about the play walking around the Heath! To me that’s the mark of great writing, it gets the audience talking and thinking as it leaves. Race did just that for us and I’m sure it will for you.

STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★


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