A play of contradictions, that’s Clybourne Park! Showcasing the impact people unknowingly have on others, each so caught up in their own (mis)understanding of reality, Clybourne Park at the Fugard Theatre is a true triumph. A side-splitting comedy that pierces the eerie veil of loss and confronts racial prejudices in a most powerful manner.
Without wanting to give too much away of the storyline, Clybourne Park give audiences a glimpse into an American community, then (1959) and now (2009), as they are forced to confront both political and self-imposed understandings of ‘principles’. Doing justice to the multi-layered genius of this fast-paced production would probably make most actors think twice before embracing a tongue twisting theatre journey such as this, but with this staging every role has been perfectly cast.
It is not often that one walks out of a production struggling to identify the stand-out performance… with Clybourne Park this is the only ‘flaw’. The cast is just so darn brilliant, I simply can’t pinpoint one as out-acting all the others. With the combined talent of Andrew Buckland, Susan Danford, Lesoko Seabe, Scott Sparrow, Nicholas Pauling, Pope Jerrod and Claire-Louise Worbly, they are the true meaning of ‘steller cast’; the perfect balance of talent, and a joy to watch.
Director Greg Karvellas is fast also becoming one of my favourite theatre visionaries for the main reason that he has a way of approaching a text with such great respect for the work of the playwright, that he truly emphasises and enhances the essence of the original voice. He stays true to the process of telling the story without unnecessary deviations, and the story at the end of the day is what should be the star of any theatrical experience. With Clybourne Park, Karvellas does exactly that with the words so wittily woven together by Bruce Norris. Upon exiting the theatre on opening night, I simply had to high-five him for the marvellous manner in which he has done justice to this Broadway and West End – and now Cape Town – smash hit!
Apart from the amazing onstage talent and beautifully nuanced direction, special mention has to be made of the magnificent set design by Saul Radomsky. Here I am truly using the word magnificent in the most objectively descriptive sense, and not over dramatizing anything. It is absolute perfection. The set is a throwback to old-school theatre opulence, with exquisite detail that invites you into the everyday lives of the characters in a manner that allows for an authentic experience of their trials and tribulations.
All in all, Clybourne Park is a kind of out-of-body theatre experience: you observe yourself laughing but also ‘stand’ aside perceiving yourself really feeling this gem of a play with a quizzical sadness, mulling over the depth of the underlying themes of identity and loss that are so well (perhaps even tenderly so) cloaked in humour. Humour is after all a go to reaction for us humans when we don’t know how to process reality.
Clybourne Park is a thought-provoking commentary on the human condition of pride and prejudice, stealthily presented in a quasi-comedy style. Ultimately it is just sheer theatre brilliance. Book today still at Computicket to see it at the Fugard Theatre by 1 October 2016.