Race by David Mamet

Race first opened on Broadway in 2009 and ran for almost 300 performances, directed by its Pulitzer Prizewinning writer, David Mamet. It follows law partners Lawson and Brown and their mentee, Susan, as they discuss whether to take on a case where a wealthy, white client has allegedly raped a black woman. As the allegations and accusations pile up, each character's fundamental values, beliefs, and prejudices must be scrutinised and justified. It’s slick and sharp, like an American television legal drama.

This internationally renowned standard of writing and performance is a rare treat on a Fringe theatre stage

This production, directed by Clare Mortimer, comes from South Africa, a country that has its own history of racial prejudice to face. In association with Assembly Festival, The Playhouse Company from Durban comes to Edinburgh after a successful run in South Africa last year. The performances are outstanding: as bold as the writing demands and as sensitive as the nuances of prejudice expect. André Jacobs is a particularly skilled force of nature, while Nondumiso Tembe is fiery enough to cut the other characters down to size and Peter Butler's bone dry humour is deservedly appreciated. The stakes are high throughout and each one of the four actors brings the required energy and commitment.

The writing sizzles with stinging brutality. Nothing is unspeakable as the dialogue blasts along at a realistic pace. It's comic at times and there are chuckles and sniggers from the audience throughout. However, the loudest responses are shocked gasps, triggered by the scale of the plot twists and the biting humour. It's not just the continuing dilemma of race that Mamet wants to explore; social class and the justice system receive the same treatment. Each revelation is brilliantly handled by the company; there is no foreshadowing and each turn comes as a complete surprise.

However, as a critic of the original Broadway production brought up, shouldn't this play also address the similarly intrinsic prejudices our society has about gender? In a play about rape, it feels like Mamet is only telling us half a story. Perhaps it is by focussing on the effect and impression of racism that Mamet feels he can make a general comment on any prejudice ("This isn't about sex, it's about race." "What's the difference?"). Also, towards the end, it starts to feel as if plot twists are coming for the sake of shocking us, taking an otherwise naturalistic production slightly into the realm of disbelief.

This internationally renowned standard of writing and performance is a rare treat on a Fringe theatre stage, for which the production justly received a standing ovation. The only thing that lets it down slightly is the script, which starts to feel like it’s getting carried away with itself.

Reviews by Cara Ballingall

C venues - C nova

Inglorious Insinuations of Insanity

★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Free for All

★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

If Only Diana Were Queer

★★
C venues - C nova

Two Thirds

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Much Further Out Than You Thought

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

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The Blurb

A hotel room in disarray: lamps broken, cigarette butts, liquor bottles, a red sequin dress and a man accused of rape. The accused, white. The accuser, black. Shame, guilt, class, sex, lies and race are proactively stirred together in this fast-paced piece by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Mamet, produced by one of South Africa’s leading theatre companies.

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