Tuesday, 3 May 2016

FOUR STAR review for Les Blancs at the National Theatre

Danny Sapani as Tshembe Matoseh. Picture credit Johan Persson

WHEN American playwright Lorraine Hansberry died aged 34 in 1965 she left some of her work unfinished.
Les Blancs was one such but thankfully her ex husband Robert Nemiroff finished it.
The play is currently on at the National Theatre and it is truly an epic production. Full of intensity and brilliant performances, especially that of Danny Sapani as Tshembe Matoseh, it is quite simply brilliant.
Directed by multi award winning director Yael Farber, it is set in a missionary complex in a fictional African state which is in the middle of an armed struggle for independence against colonial rule.
Into the dust and heat come two men. The first is Charlie Morris, an American journalist who wants to write an account of the mission - populated and led by a white missionary who has gone missing - and the work it does to help the indigenous people.
The second is Tshembe who after having left his people to travel the world, has married a white British woman, had a son by her and now settled happily in London, is back to be with his family at his father’s funeral.
But the tension within the state is rising with an increasing number of shootings, arguments and lootings and as a consequence, uncertainty and worry about the future is uppermost in the minds of those who stay at the mission.
Tshembe finds himself in the middle of this storms, torn between his family and his life back in England.
And all the while with tensions rising, and the revolution imminent, it is as though a bomb is ticking just waiting to explode.
As well as some superb performances from the likes of James Fleet as Dr Dekoven and Elliot Cowan as Charlie Morris, the revolving set too is stunning, making it a production that is both gripping and poignant.

Les Blancs is at the National Theatre until Friday, June 2. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000 for full listings.

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