A Raisin in the Sun at the Liverpool Playhouse

Walter Lee Younger (Ashley Zhangazha) comforts his wife, Ruth (Alisha Bailey)

Walter Lee Younger (Ashley Zhangazha) comforts his wife, Ruth (Alisha Bailey)

A Raisin in the Sun, written by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959, is funny, intense and thought provoking. It provides the audience with an insight into the life of the Younger family, three generations living together in a cramped, cockroach infested apartment in Chicago.

The play, directed by Dawn Walton of the Eclipse Theatre Company, discusses many key issues that faced black people in the 1950s; predominantly housing segregation and limited work prospects.  It is a performance that is full of tension, passion and aspirations for a quality of life better.

The main focus of the narrative is the insurance pay-outof $10,000 that is due to be received by Lena Younger, (Angela Wynter) following the death of her husband. Everyone has their dreams for this money, from her son Walter Lee’s business ideas, to her daughter Beneatha’s dreams of becoming a doctor. What all of these dreams have in common is the desire for a better life.

Each actor provides an impressively emotional and raw performance: Ashley Zhangazha’s truly embodies the desperation and aspirations of Walter Lee, providing some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the play. He is at times unbearable, and appears frustratingly selfish in his actions, however by the end of the play it is undeniable that he is just a man trying to do the best for his family.

Angela Wynter as Mama also does a fantastic job depicting the head of the family, a woman who is no stranger to hard work and struggle but who manages to maintain a beautiful tenderness, particularly towards her grandson, Travis (Solomon Gordon). She is without question the glue that holds the family together, along with her husband, who despite being recently deceased, still manages to provide for the family through his insurance money.

The claustrophobic set design ingeniously lends itself to this play. The audience cannot help but feel like they have become a fly on the wall in this extremely intimate setting. Before the audience has even been seated, the stage is very much alive; the stage lights are low, a human shaped lump sleeps on the sofa at centre-stage. Upon the dimming of the house lights, it is like the breaking of day as the apartment comes alive and the inhabitants of that small apartment begin to wake. The audience immediately feels that they are sharing in the intimate scenes of family life that are not usually available.

Between the incredible performances of the cast, Amanda Stooley’s set design and Dawn Walton’s direction, this performance surely does great justice to the original script by Lorraine Hansberry, with the issues explored just as relevant today as they were during the play’s debut. A fantastic performance and a must see.

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