Ethan Hazzard and Rosie Day in The Fellowship. Photo: Robert Day
ROY Williams is currently the mentor for Hampstead Theatre’s year-long Inspire writers programme. His last piece, The associationis a timely exploration of what it means to be black in Britain today.
We follow the fortunes of Dawn (Cherrelle Skeete entering the short-term role) and Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn). The sisters grew up in 1980s London and witnessed the New Cross fire and the Brixton and Broadwater Farm riots.
Marcia is now a lawyer, but her affair with a married white politician (who wants her to take the points for her driving offense) threatens to derail her career. Dawn cares for their dying mother Sylvia (Yasmin Mwanza) who is part of the Windrush generation, whom we meet as her ghostly younger self.
Dawn struggles to connect with her flighty musician partner Tony (Trevor Laird), son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard), and white girlfriend Simone (Rosie Day). She blames Simone for the racist murder of her eldest son because she knew the gang that killed him.
There’s a lot to admire in Williams’ play and Paulette Randall’s assured production, but its two-and-a-half-hour runtime seems too long. There are so many conflicts that it is difficult for us to follow the competing plots and the past sometimes dominates the present. Libby Watson’s sweeping, curved staircase is impressive, but doesn’t match the room’s more contained, naturalistic setting.
A slight relief comes when the sisters let off steam dancing to an unexpected choice of playlists. I wish Williams had focused more on that relationship — their tensions and their obvious love for each other.
For the majority, The association is well done and Skeete deserves a special mention for an outstanding performance after only a few days of rehearsal.
Until July 23