Ryan Calais Cameron’s powerful new work plays with the meanings of its title in many ways: our central, point-of-view character has the “distinctive qualities of a particular type of person” and yet a representative symbol of much more than first appears. In less than an hour, we come to empathise with not just one full-of-life man, who’s nevertheless cracking at the edges, but with societal consequences for far too many others.
Deliciously full of life, colour and a distinctive voice that Blackwood expresses with both physicality and subtlety.
Richard Blackwood may well be lying down, “asleep”, as the audience comes in, but after that alarm clock goes off, he’s full of energy and vigour, albeit with the lingering sense of his circumstances trying to make him old before his time. He’s ex-Army, separated from his partner and child, living on his own in severely reduced circumstances, but working and even more determined than before to enjoy the weekends. His mates are getting on, though arguably they’re more honest in accepting that they’re now “three old men chatting old shit”. Our hero, though, keeps on going.
The initial focus of the play seems clear enough: the horrendous realities of racism potentially experienced by BAME military who, on returning to civilian life, find themselves attacked by some in the society they risked their lives to defend. Our man’s determined, however, not to react to the racism he encounters, whether it’s from the nightclub security man or the short-arsed “big man” who ultimately wins in picking a fight with the former soldier. Taken to hospital, he experiences different forms of racism; dangerously, for a man who has “a lot of words” but few that work for him.
The evening ends in a police station, with consequences that are meant – quite deliberately – to shock, shifting the context of everything we’ve seen up until then. Cameron’s play may end as quite a blunt instrument, but beforehand it’s deliciously full of life, colour and a distinctive voice that Blackwood expresses with both physicality and subtlety. A short, sharp and memorable story of a life lived as well as it can in far from ideal circumstances.