The Melbourne Theatre Company’s education program and the Sydney Opera House’s House:Ed are hosting a local production of Random by young British playwright debbie tucker green. A tightly directed and beautifully performed 45-minute monodrama, Random is a powerful play that explores how an average family living in the outskirts of London deal with the death of their brother and son.
debbie tucker green has written Random in Jamaican creole, or patois. For Australian audiences largely unfamiliar with this form of grammar, it can at first be somewhat disengaging to listen to in the theatre. But the wind soon turns, as this language swiftly becomes one of the features of the performance, resulting in a poetic verse (of sorts).
Zahra Newman, Jamaican-born herself, performs many characters in Random. Her primary character, Sister, is both storyteller and narrator, as all events in the plot are told through her lens. Non-naturalistic devices include direct address, as Sister comments upon stage action to the audience, and the seamless transformation between one character and the next throughout the drama. Newman’s fine acting allowed for many comical moments in part one, particularly her clever portrayal of the cool teenage charm of Brother and the muted maleness of Father. Conversely, she handled the play’s darker moments in the second half with sensitivity, never straying into the realm of sentimentality or melodrama.
Random is a low-budget touring production open to the general public, but primarily aimed at senior secondary students studying drama. Tanja Beer’s set therefore is simple, yet effective, incorporating a series of lighting truss in various configurations. These form many environments in the play from inside the family home, to Sister’s workplace, and then outside where Brother was randomly killed.
Leticia Caceres has carefully directed Random in an open space with minimal interaction between set and performer. Within the confines of the lighting truss, various locations are well defined. Newman’s character transitions are obvious, yet mostly subtle. She avoids over-the-top transformations, working the audience in the process. It was a case of concentrate or lose it, as the audience followed Newman’s every move while she changed characters without alteration to costume and no props to speak of. Careful use of gesture, voice and facial expressions enabled Newman to convincingly perform multiple characters.
debbie tucker green’s Random is a well-written play that will leave its audience thinking and feeling about a growing concern in contemporary society; the increasingly common random attacks of violence amongst today’s youth. The Melbourne Theatre Company’s production was a powerful piece of unembellished theatre where the actor’s skills reigned supreme. Grotowski, surely would have approved.
Teacher and student resource web links on Random are located here on The Drama Teacher.