This is phenomenal. And pretty wild. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s An Octoroon is the most intelligent and most theatre-savvy play on today’s London stage: it is a satire on staging race, an account of black identity, a criticism of plantation life, a celebration of genre fun and a tribute to a forgotten work from the Victorian era.
Is God female? It says a lot about Yaël Farber’s pompous and overblown new version of this biblical tale at the National Theatre that, near the end of an almighty 110-minute extravaganza, all reason seemed to have vacated my brain, and its empty halls, battered by a frenzy of elevated music, heaven-sent lighting and wildly gesturing actors, were suddenly open to the oddest ideas.
At a time when everyone is talking about globalization, when this is an issue in every election, plays about the international reach of European countries are still quite rare. So it’s great to be able to see two recent dramas that give some sense of how difficult it is to grasp the bigger picture in all its complexity.