This powerful two-hander explores issues that have been particularly sharpened into focus with the events of this year.
Originally part of The Actors Centre’s working class season curated by Actor Awareness in 2019, Cliffordkuju Henry’s raw and intense play has been reimagined to fit with the tumultuous events of this year – doing so with great passion and insight.
In Search of a White Identity sees Mickey and Patrick sharing a police cell together, having both been arrested for their parts in a protest at which they were both on opposite sides at. Having grown up together, the play explores how their views on Britain, class and racism have taken them on very different paths.
At around 30 minutes in length, the play is direct in style, as you see both characters handling the issues that have affected their lives in different ways. Mickey is a builder who is frustrated at the fact his kids can’t afford houses close by so they have to move away from the family blaming immigrants, while Patrick is tired and frustrated of living in fear and hatred with the ongoing fight against racism. There is a lot of anger on both sides and while the strength of feeling really drives the conversation forward at times it threatens to overwhelm the powerful message at the centre of it.
Directed with great focus by Victoria Evaristo, In Search of a White Identity has a lot to say but feels as though it needs slightly more time in which to explore the issues in greater depth. For example, it would have been even more effective to have heard more about how their father’s attitudes towards women affected their own personal lives as they grew up.
This being said, the play effectively intertwines politics with the personal experiences of Patrick and Mickey to offer a balanced view from both perspectives (even if from the audience’s point of view you tend to side with one more than the other). By the end you feel that both characters have learnt more about each other – even if ultimately they don’t agree with each other’s opinions.
The contrast between the performances really enhance further just how polar opposite both the characters are – yet also subtly hints at the way in which perhaps they have something in common. Cliffordkuju Henry as Patrick delivers an assured performance that captures the passion and tension that his character feels about racism in an understated but compelling way, contrasting with Drew Edwards as the defensive and more outright aggressive Mickey. Edwards is utterly convincing in the role, performing with great energy – but also offers flashes of vulnerability as Patrick challenges him about his views.
Overall, this is a powerful and thought provoking piece of drama with room for further development. It highlights the complexity of the issues that have proved to be prominent in the news in the last year, effectively conveying that there is no simple answer in ensuring that change happens.
By Emma Clarendon
In Search of a White Identity is available to stream via The Actors Centre until the 6th December.