One party gone wrong and a constellation of friends, family, and sacrosanct values falls apart. Such is the premise of Gurpreet’s Kaur Bhatti’s blistering play, which interrogates how fractious are the bonds which hold us close, and how populous and variegated are the prejudices within our friends, family and colleagues. Bhatti’s play anatomises the development of racism and prejudice in the UK in a relentless and scathing play.
Bhatti’s play anatomises the development of racism and prejudice in the UK in a relentless and scathing play.
The focal point of Bhatti’s play is Gary (Richie Campbell) and Nicky (Claire Louise – Cordwell): thinly stretched parents raising three children in a council estate flat, with only two bedrooms. Once childhood sweethearts, their lives are now a dedication to hard graft, and providing the best possible future for their children. Regularly at (fairly pedestrian) parties, they entertain their friends, Mo and Anjum (Asif Khan & Manjinder Virk), Gary’s colleague Mark (Thomas Coombes) and Gary’s sister, Karen (Petra Letang). An intrusion from Gary’s manager, Victoria, (Amy Morgan), sows the seeds of discord but by no means is she the sole originator of prejudice. Bhatti’s script has immense pace – the opening scene introduces the full cast before unflinchingly picking at the threads which hold them together.
Michael Buffong’s direction is seamless and it is clear that enormous amounts of work has been done across his production in order to create tender chemistry across the cast. Performances from Campbell and Cordwell are particularly nuanced and share the same heartbeat – meaning when they have to confront their own values, the emotional force is seismic. Anna Fleischle’s set design rotates between Gary and Nicky’s flat and the staff room of Gary’s workplace. The sets of both are modular and within that is the threat that modern prejudice can be mass-produced and integrated into any kitchen, staff room, or interview opportunity. Neither spaces are safe and there is a feeling in Fleischle’s universe that no character in Bhatti’s play can ever safely decompress their hopes, fears, and cultural baggage unless they are forced to a point of explosive.
A Kind of People is an endless and introspective artillery barrage of the imbalances of power present in today’s society. Bhatti presents these as always contextual and never obvious, everywhere and invisible all at once. It is money. Class. A lack of transparency. Personal obsessions. Shared memories and what happens when people deviate from them. Perceived wealth and perceived poverty. The fetishization of other bodies, cultures, and spaces. Healthcare (public or private). Education (state or private). Social mobility (upwards or downwards). The politics of always feeling exhausted. The ever-present threat of rent. Loving your children but hating some (or many) of the things they do. Watching your friends’ children to see if they are making the same mistakes. It is relentless and exhausting.
A Kind of People delivers excellent performances and crafts moments of nervous and heartfelt anguish. The chemistry between Campell and Cordwell is well-crafted and Buffong’s direction expands happy relationships into dark and torturous spaces. Love and hate stand side by side in Bhatti’s resonant and terrifyingly precise anatomy of relationships and prejudices in modern Britain.