Okay, so back in February I went to see A Raisin in the Sun at The Nuffield Theatre, Southampton. I ran this as a trip for The Quill Society, with a total of fifteen people in tow. However, due to my various deadlines and the consistent brain fog of my chronic illnesses, I completely forgot to write my review. So here it is, delayed, but still here.
I studied this famous play last year, as part of my unit Writing with Power. We looked at how Lorraine Hansberry so poignantly portrays a world so devoid of hope for black Americans, that an elderly woman’s only symbol of hope is her withered, dying little plant.
There were no curtains to open at the start of the show. When you sat down, you entered the Younger apartment. Peeling wallpaper, a shared bathroom and a family of five all crammed into this tiny apartment, moving around each other like fish as they rush to complete their morning routine.
This play completely captured me in its text form, but plays are supposed to be performed, and not read. This production was a clear demonstration of why. The actors harmonised with the typical family dynamics that we see at Christmas, and the exhausting grind of this occurrence on a daily basis.
The flimsy set ironically enhanced the entire experience, the walls of the apartment literally shaking every time Walter (Ashley Zhangazha) slammed the door in a rage. This made the experience feel even more real, as it created a kind of shock factor in the audience, as if their own father/son/brother/husband had just slammed that door.
However, the stand out performance was, without a doubt, Angela Wynter. An actress best known for her role in Eastenders, had the aura of an experienced West End actress. Artificially aged for her role as Mama, her entire characterisation of Lena was of exhaustion and lost dreams. She still managed to act as the dominant and guiding member of the family throughout the play.
My only criticism of this production was the alternative ending. In the text by Hansberry, Lena accidentally leaves her precious plant in the flat, and after a short interval, runs back in to retrieve it. However, in this version, she takes the plant with her. I couldn’t understand why this change was made to such a symbolic and significant ending, but it still did not detract from the overall quality of the production.