A Raisin In The Sun reviewed

Lorraine Hansberry’s famous drama, A Raisin in the Sun, came to the Royal Exchange in Manchester over the past month and I was sent to discover what the play was really about.

Hansberry’s family drama focuses on a black family, the Youngers, who reside on the Southside of Chicago in 1959. Even though the family work they barely earn enough money to cover the rent. Therefore, when the head of the family passes away, the family wait in earnest for the insurance cheque of $10,000 which will make their dreams come true. Each family member has their own aspirations for the money and the family soon begin to fall apart as the thoughts of money consume them.

As soon as I entered the theatre I was instantly in awe of the set which was designed by Ellen Cairns. Cairns had managed to capture the realistic essence of a 1950s home on such a small set. The set consisted of a small kitchen, a living room, chairs and a sofa which also acts as a bed for the youngest member of the family, Travis. The set was also positioned in the round which allowed the audience to become part of the action . As well as this subtle touches were also added throughout the production. At one point in the production the daughter of the family, Beneatha (Tracey Ifeachor), uses a 1950s cockroach spray which positively had me itching by the end of the scene.

The acting was also phenomenal. Starletta Dupois gave an exceptionally emotional performance as the matriarch of the family, Lena Walter. Dupois captured the essence of a mother in turmoil as she tries to keep her family’s spirit alive. Dupois’ performance was complimented by Ray Fearon, who plays her son Walter Lee in the production. Fearon took the audience on an emotional rollercoaster.  I experienced the incredible highs of when Walter Lee believes he has solved his family’s financial problems, to the devastating lows when he destroys there one chance of achieving their dreams. This then resulted in me dabbing my eyes frequently throughout the play!

However, in my opinion the actress who really shook the audience to its core was Jenny Jules. Jules played Ruth, Walter Lee’s wife, and is the character that experiences the most extreme emotional challenges.  Ruth’s love for Walter is put to the test when she shows him a support even though she disagrees with his financial plans. Ruth is also faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to keep her unborn child due to the family’s financial situation. However, what made Jules’ performance really stand out for me was the sense of humour she bought to the role.

There is also an underlying discourse of race running through the play. This comes in form of Lena purchasing a property for her family in an all white area of Chicago. Karl Linder (Tom Hodgkins) is then nominated by his peers to act as “the welcoming committee” in hopes to try and persuade the Younger’s not to move. This motif was made even more powerful by the fact that Hansberry had  experienced similar circumstances.

Hansberry based the narrative on her own childhood. Hansberry’s family resided on the South Side of Chicago in the late 1950s. Hansberry’s father became involved in a legal battle with a covenant who attempted to evict the family from the all white area they lived in.

All in all the production was magnificent and is summarised perfectly by director Michael Buffong, “A Raisin in the Sun is a powerful, evocative piece and an uplifting one for audiences too!

www.royalexchangetheatre.org.uk

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