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Wright From America

David Harris talks to playwright Willard Simms about the black American author Richard Wright, the subject of his new play.

When he died in exile in Paris in l961. Richard Wright‘s literary reputation seetned to be in terminal decline. Although he had pioneered the black American urban novel in Native Son. and written a masterpiece of autobiography in Black Boy. younger writers like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin had absorbed his lesson and moved on. His radical polernics. while they drew constant attention from FBI and KGB agents. gained few readers back home; and yet by the end of the decade his words would be on the lips of millions worldwide.

The man who coined the phrase Black Power wrote from bitter experience of powerlessness personal. political and artistic and Willard Simms's Wright Front America depicts him as both a prophet of social upheaval and a symbol of social exclusion. Against an aural backdrop of sleepy jazz and the

saw” ‘-

descant n'ffs of the two-strong supporting cast. Wilson Bell gives a virtuoso performance as the man himself. recalling and rc-enacting scenes from his life and works. Wright‘s struggle to be heard above the oppressive din of the white literary mainstream is subtly explored. and with skilful direct quotation contributing to a vivid realisation of his character and ideas in all their complexity. it is a moving and comprehensive testament to his legacy.

While he focused on black experience and supported Pan-African nationalism. his diagnosis of social injustice extends easily to other disenfranchised groups. Sirnrns. a white. LA-based playwright.

Wright From America: a prophet oi social upheaval and a symbol oi social exclusion

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was inspired to dramatise Wright‘s life when his own dyslexic son was classed as ineducable by school authorities. ‘At the same time.‘ he says. ‘my wife was teaching Black Boy. and the experiences ofa black child growing up in the South were identical to what my son was going through 70 years later. I think what Wright ‘s message was. and what my message is. is that we have to empower people and enable them to find their own voice and find a way into society. The more we free/.e people out. the more they're going to attack society.‘

I Wright From America (Fringe) Pearl Productions. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. until 3| Aug (not 25)

Thelong Good Friday

It’s the long shot at the end everyone remembers - Bob lioskins as ilarold Shant, London gangland leader, his army in tatters and his lite in serious danger oi being rubbed out, trapped in the back oi a car with a welter oi emotions playing through his horriiied and shocked imagination - there are times when no talking is required. For Barrie Keeie, writer oi the screenplay (which has been adapted “word tor word’ by the Central Studio Theatre Company), there were no John Woo reierence points or post-modern dialogues, but there was a deiinitive and superb attempt at a realistic, gritty and iilmic portrait oi Gangland london. It worked. It’s an outstanding piece oi British cinema that gloriiies and condemns where The Young

The Long Good Friday: choreographed tights are still ‘ialrly gory'

Americans merely managed to make london look good in the dark. Shant’s nemesis - a new and poweriul gangland iorce - is surprisingly still as relevant as it was in 1979.

Ilrrtil now, it has never seen a theatrical adaptation but, according to Gabrielle liennlg, co-producer oi

the Basingstoke-based group’s version, it might not have happened at all, but ior iinding the screenplay, ‘in a second-hand book shop. It was actually out at print’. She and director .lan llennig were so impressed with Keeie’s anti-hero that they put together a perionrrance, ‘reorganising it so it became a piece oi theatre’. To that end, tight sequences in the iilm have been transiormed into choreographed reinterpretations, although the iinal confrontation with Jeii, Shant’s right hand man is still ‘iairly gory’. First put to the test in October 1995, the play has been deemed a hit, selling out a number oi beneiit periorrnances since that have aiiorded Central Studio the opportunity to bring the adaptation to Edinburgh. Ii actor Andy King can make Shani his own, this cult iilm classic should be a real theatrical treat. (Cait llurley) The long Good Friday (Fringe) Central Studio Theatre Company, Hill Sheet Theatre (Venue 41) 226 65%, 25-31 Aug, £5 (£4). 25 Aug Is a ‘Pay What You Can' day.

quick hits

I Hic lioc A stunning and unmissable production which takes juggling into the realms of high an. with influences as varied as surrealism. Buster Keaton and jazz improvisation.

Hic Hoc (Fringe) Compagnie Jerome Thomas. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. tortil 3/ Aug. 2pm. £9 (£8).

I Get Up And Tie Your Fingers A moving new play which tells the sorry tale of how 29 fishermen from Eyemouth died in a storm in l88 I. seen through the eyes of three of the bereaved women. See review.

Get Up And 'Iie Your Fingers (Fringe) Fourth Wall Productions. (Ii/(led Balloon ( Venue 38) 226 2/ 5/ . until 3 I Aug. 2pm. £6.50

( £5. 50).

I let The Donkey Co Physical and farcical comedy-theatre from an unusual English/Catalan/ Basque trio. Awesomely original. See review.

Let The Donkey Go (Fringe) Peepo/ykus. The I’leasance (Venue 33) 556 6550. 23/24 Aug. 2pm. [6.50 ((5.50). 25—3/ Aug. 3. I 5pm. £5.50 (£4.50).

I Hollywood Screams A one-man joumey through almost a century of American humour. from Mae West to Woody Allen. by North Londoner Michael Roberts. Hollywood Screams (Fringe) Ken Sharp Productions. The Honeycomb ( Venue I39) 226 215/. until 3/ Aug. 2.30pm. £6 (£5).

I Target Practice Two wildly contrasting monologues performed by the excellent Andrew Stanson. Prepare to revise everything you once thought about The Beatles.

Target Practice (Fringe) F aux Pas. Cafe Royal (Venue 4 7) 556 2459. tutti/31 Aug. [.15pm. £5 (£4).


The List 23 Aug-5 Sept I996 21 \