STAGE REVIEW: The White Card @ Northern Stage (04.05.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: L-R Estella Daniels Nick Blakeley Kate Copeland Matthew Pidgeon & CJ Coleman by Wasi Daniju

This co-production of Claudia Rankine’s political play The White Card is directed by Northern Stage’s Artistic Director Natalie Ibu, and topically tackles white privilege, inherent racism and what it means to be Black.

The one act play has a nifty scene change that swiftly and skilfully transforms the set in front of the audience’s eyes. The story unfolds from the New York apartment of a wealthy white family to the home of a talented Black artist.

This is a performance that enables you to feel part of the conversation as dinner party hosts and guests arrive. It makes you question your own thoughts and perceptions with a very clever double entendre ending that leaves you doubting your own racial prejudices depending on how you interpret the language used and where your own mind thinks the story is going.

Matthew Pidgeon (Charles) and Kate Copeland (Virginia) are parents to son C J Coleman (Alex) and it is also revealed they have an imprisoned son. They all showcase impressive US accents as does art dealer Nick Blakeley (Eric) and they collectively present a seemingly perfect household to welcome visiting artist Estella Daniels (Charlotte).

As the evening unfolds, sycophantic efforts to make Daniels’ Charlotte feel at home are patronising and supercilious with moments of light humour, although an emphasis on such comedic elements in the earlier scenes would have contrasted better with the more intense and darker elements of this play as it progresses.

This may well be C J Coleman’s debut performance but his portrayal of an activist son fighting injustice and prejudice is arresting and admirable. Certainly a talent to track.

During the scene change, mirrors are held up to the audience encouraging you to reflect on who you are and your own pre-conceptions, before the play’s intensity ramps up into a two-hander between Pidgeon and Daniels.

Charles collects art associated with Black victims and is convinced of his own good intentions, as is his son Alex with his mission to fight the criminalisation of Black people.

But as Charlotte points out, “the North may have won the war but the South won the narrative,” it is the talented artist who makes Charles the subject of the debate after being inspired by a fellow artist who made a woman watching the lynching of a Black person the subject of the art itself.

This is a thought-provoking play, yet at times felt a little predictable.

The White Card is at Northern Stage, Newcastle until Saturday 14th May.

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