The Black Album (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 21st October 2009)
I wouldn’t say that this was gripping theatre and some of the effects were just a little bit cliched. All those flashing lights on the white set with phrases about life in the 1980s such as ‘Greed is Good’ and ‘Material Girl’ and all that music from the 80s that was about power and material items, just became a little cloying. I felt that the pre show didn’t really add much more to the narrative other than to say this was the eighties, because I wasn’t sure that the play was a tale of morals against the coverting of material wealth. I suppose the play’s title, in its reference to the pop sar Prince’s album, the Black Album, was supposed to have some significance to the narrative. Apart from the fact that the central character, Shahid Hasan, liked Prince, I struggled to see the point unless the title related to Salman Rushdie’s book and if it the association did not work for me. However, I did learn something from watching the play and I did get caught up with the story, so I don’t want to be negative about my experience. The problem was the story was so predictable and I did feel that all the way through I wasn’t surprised or challenged. I felt that everything was laid out for the audience in such a way that at each moment I just knew what was going to happen in the next moment. Characters had long speeches about what they stood for, so it just didn’t feel like they were engaged in dialogue with each other. I became annoyed about the characters doing the scene changes in character and as they were only moving a desk and sofa from one place to another, it didn’t feel like it served a purpose. I got so fed up with the clothes and the main character taking is trousers on and off, because yes I know clothes are about identity, the play didn’t need to lay it on with a trowel.
Yes the issues were complex and we were being asked to explore different points of view. However, the play presented it all in a too simplistic way and the characters were often one-dimensional and feeling clearly that they were intended to represent types, rather than be rounded interesting complex characters.
Reviews and Previews (National Theatre)
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