A black man is preparing to head out to paint the town red (this was in 1998, before anyone responds with questions about the legality of leaving one’s house to socialise). As is the case with too many black people’s stories, this is only going to end one way: badly. But this is not, despite the show’s title, a typical case of verbal abuse and a bit of argy-bargy in some nightclub. Some people even think that one hasn’t really lived unless one has been barred from at least one pub in one’s lifetime.
Richard Blackwood plays an ex-serviceman, only named at the very end of the play. He is lonely, on account of being divorced, and being a single man, he speaks freely to friendly and welcoming women in the clubs and bars that he frequents. The show is almost immediately poetical, and sometimes proceeds at a breakneck pace: at one point he is “playing kiss chase with this damn beat”, a reference to a song being played on the dancefloor with a particularly brisk rhythm, but I almost felt I was proverbially doing the same, trying to keep up with the narrative.
The final moments of the show are harrowing, to say the least. It is one thing to leave someone being (apparently) drunk and disorderly alone: it is quite another to claim, as police officers did in the custody suite after arresting this man, that he is acting up when he is frothing at the mouth, evidently dying in front of them. What I found interesting about the circumstances surrounding the death of Christopher Alder, whose life this show is based on, is that the show doesn’t go on to say anything about what happened after his passing. These are not, therefore spoiler alerts: amongst other things, a) none of the police officers involved were imprisoned for manslaughter and misconduct in public office, instead being pensioned off, and b) in 2011, his body was discovered in the mortuary at Hull Royal Infirmary, eleven years after his family believed they had buried him – someone else had been buried in his place.
Because the central character is also the narrator (it is, after all, a one-man show) it doesn’t necessarily follow that those events should be included, but their omissions nonetheless make the story feel incomplete. The devil is in the detail with shows like this – the audience is told he has custody of his children every other weekend, so this weekend, he is free to party. For a show that lasts just under an hour, the partying goes on a bit, taking up perhaps half the show, or at least it felt that way. The play is careful not to see absolutely everything through the lens of racial discrimination, and one gets the feeling that some of the aggression and confrontation displayed would have arisen regardless – some people are simply obnoxious to everyone.
There is little if any doubt, however, by the end of the play, that a great miscarriage of justice was committed. A considerable amount of humour permeates the monologue, which keeps things more light-hearted and entertaining than one might reasonably expect from what is essentially a tragedy play. Typical by name but untypical by nature, with Blackwood putting in a tour de force performance in this brisk and bold production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Richard Blackwood reprises his role in a specially filmed version of the Edinburgh and Soho smash-hit.
First performed in 2019 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before the hit play transferred to Soho Theatre for a sell-out run, Typical is a powerful exploration of racism and how British society stereotypes Black masculinity. This urgent and important new drama stars Hollyoaks regular and former EastEnders star Richard Blackwood reprising the critically acclaimed part he played in the original stage version.
Written by award-winning playwright Ryan Calais Cameron and directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour, Typical uncovers the man and the humanity behind the tragic true-life events of Black British ex-serviceman Christopher Alder and the injustice that still remains twenty years since his story emerged.
CREATIVE AND PRODUCTION TEAM
Writer Ryan Calais Cameron
Director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour
Actor Richard Blackwood
Producer Charlotte Campbell
Producer Gabrielle Leadbetter
Executive Producer David Luff
Executive Producer Ryan Calais Cameron
Cinematographer Jermaine Edwards
Editor Oral Norrie Ottey
Assistant Editor Robert Cone
Set and Costume Designer Zahra Mansouri
Sound Designer Gareth Fry
Original Stage Sound Designer Duramaney Kamara
Lighting Designer Paul Anderson
Lighting Programmer Laurence Russell
Original Stage Lighting Designer Sorcha Stott-Strzala
Voice and Dialect Coach Hazel Holder
Drama Therapist Wabriya King
Movement Director Coral Messam
Original Stage Movement Director Ingrid Mackinnon
Fight Director Kevin McCurdy
Assistant Director Jessica Mensah
Production Manager Sebastian Cannings
Stage Manager Sylvia Darkwa-Ohemeng
Make Up Designer Ruth McGinty
Casting Director Nadine Rennie
Camera Operator B Camera Sean Francis
Camera Operator C Camera Anna MacDonald
Focus Puller A Camera Tim Potter
Focus Puller B Camera Marco Alonso
Focus Puller C Camera Emma Friend
2 nd AC Jean Ash
DIT John Miguel King
Stills Photographer Franklyn Rodgers
Lighting Equipment Sparks Theatrical Hire Ltd.
Colourist John Miguel King
Digital Imaging Services Digital Orchard
Music Clearance Laura Rouxel
Soho Technician Kevin Millband
Soho Technician Georgina Trott
Release date: 24th February 2021 on Soho Theatre On Demand